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The Old Man and the Sea 

Too many ethnic techniques get in the way of the storytelling

Wednesday, May 11 2005
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Californians are no strangers to fusion. They eat mahi-mahi in wasabi-mango marinade as if it were chicken potpie, and combine acupuncture and BOTOX without blinking an eye. Blending Japanese noh drama, kyogen comedy, and scattered lines from Ernest Hemingway's classic novella The Old Man and the Sea with Balinese-inspired shadow puppetry, Japanese glass-blown sets and props, and a variety of musical styles (including Cuban percussion and Tuvan throat music), Theatre of Yugen's stage adaptation of Hemingway's work fits in with local multicultural appetites. The production tells the story of an old fisherman's Ahab-like pursuit of a prize marlin in the hostile, shark-infested waters off the Cuban coast, capturing something of the glassy stillness of the original with its delicately changing patterns of light, movement, and sound. Yet the rainbow blend of cultural odds and ends soon becomes rather tiring on the eyes, ears, and mind. At times, the melee of so many random ethnic techniques and styles gets in the way of the storytelling. As a result, The Old Man drifts somnambulant and directionless out to sea.

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Chloe Veltman

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