SEXUAL PRACTICES OF THE JAPANESE (Factory/Theatre Replacement). To May 18. 416-504-9971. See listings. Rating: NNN
Solid PracticesSet in a forest of business suits, Sexual Practices Of The Japanese breaks the fourth wall to tease the audience with comedy and touch us with sadness.
Collectively created by Hiro Kanagawa, Manami Hara, James Long and Maiko Bae Yamamoto and directed by the latter two, the piece weaves together several stories of life in today’s Japan: an unwanted encounter on a crowded subway, excitement over Seattle Marlins ballplayer Ichiro Suzuki, territorial quarrels in a seemingly subdued office, a sometimes uncomfortable tryst in a love hotel.
The cast – Hara, Yamamoto and Raugi Yu – subvert the stereotypes of the subservient woman and the work-fixated businessman by means of audience quizzes, fast-moving scenarios and sharp acting.
Some episodes are flatter than others, but most suggest an emotional undercurrent running counter to the characters’ words and actions. The best scenes are set at the office, where workers hide their emotional needs; tension arises from Hara and Yamamoto squaring off to get Yu’s attention. In a related and very funny segment, the launch of a virtual sex machine doesn’t quite come off – or, rather, come.