by Toshiki Okada
Translated by Aya Ogawa

Directed by Dan Rothenberg

Pig Iron Theater Company
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts
Cook Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Tr., Sarasota
Oct. 11, 12, 12 at Ringling International Arts Festival 2012

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker 

The sole purely theatrical piece shown at RIAF ’12, a cooperative venture between The Ringling Museum of Art and the Barysnikov Arts Center now in its fourth year, “Zero Cost House”came from a Japanese writer who was forced by the recent earthquake and tsunami to move to a less urban city than Tokyo. Here his autobiographical musings are being shaped by a Philadelphia theater group who do original works they say defy categorization. I interpret that means in this instance self-indulgent attempts to inspire a collective creation meant to seem created partly on the spot. It is based on the author’s social, economic, political  musings on his geographic- move and his reading of Thoreau’s “Walden”--also related to how he writes. It helps to realize too, in case one wonders why bunnies appear onstage and hop about or play ukeleles, that Pig Iron characteristically presents actors in animal costumes including heads.
A lethargic narrator introduces the circumstances and plays the author--when he’s not playing a bunny or exchanging identities with the one who plays Thoreau or dictating to a black actress who is writing a play that may be the author’s play, this play, but who hasn’t previously read “Walden,” which she will proceed to do.  What is introduced in Chapter One (the first of three parts of this “play”) is the character of Sagaguchi or however he spells his name. He is an architect who doesn’t build anything but who reaches all his conclusions about housing based on his sense of smell. He becomes all-important in Chapter Three, when the author and the woman-writing-a-play focus on his theories of  living with little monetary costs in cost-less housing. (The middle Chapter has mainly taken up the author’s changing views of Thoreau and what he wrote along with the author’s own process of writing.)  Much of all the proceedings are spoken directly to the audience, which I think was genuinely perplexed but determined to feel “with it”—like the fabled crowd watching and reacting to a certain Emperor and his new clothes. On the other hand, there was a lot of fidgeting going on during the many pauses made by the actors. I will grant that the bunnies drew some genuine laughs.
In line with the message of the play, scenery was minimal—a back wall of two tiers of tall boards that shifted in Chapter Two on a slant that signified a change of place and in Three made a roof—probably over the titled House. Costumes consisted of everyday  very casual wear and what I heard were the cute bunny  ones. A little pile of ashes off to one side downstage was obviously symbolic.  The toys on it (as, for instance, a car) were removed after a point was made about living without what have seemed like necessities, especially if they aren’t good for the environment.  The actor playing the architect ended as a politician, the only dynamic change of identities that occurred during the play.
I found the two hour length excruciating.  Dramaturg Jackie Sibblies Drury was listed as a Contributing Writer. Stage Manager was E Sara Barnes, and Production Manager was Belina Mizrahi.

Return to Home Page

  • Road (National) Tour Review Index
  • New York City & Environs Theatre Review Index
  • Berkshire, Massachusetts Theatre Review Index
  • Boston Area Theatre Review Index
  • Florida Theatre Review Index
  • London Theatre Review Index
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (Twin Cities) Theatre Review Index
  • Philadelphia & Environs Theatre Review Index
  • San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Review Index
  • Seattle Area Theatre Review Index
  • Toronto, Ontario (Canada) Index