by Shawn Hirabayashi
New York Times
By LAUREL GRAEBER
October 26, 2001
Fire and Rain
There is no crouching tiger in the latest production from Vital Children's Theater Company, but there is certainly a hidden dragon, not to mention martial arts that are sure to delight all young Jackie Chan fans.
Yet "Dragon Rain," which the company opened recently under Stephen Sunderlin's direction, is ultimately a serious story. Adapted by Shawn B. Hirabayashi from a Japanese folk tale, the play juxtaposes the traditional Buddhist view that suffering must be accepted as inevitable with the more contemporary notion that human anguish should be alleviated whenever possible. The result is a tender fable of love and sacrifice.
The hero is Genryo (Andy Lee), a young monk on a pilgrimage who is captured by a tengu (Marco Jo Clate), a winged predator. Thrown into its dungeon, he gives some of his water to a fellow prisoner, a snake named Ryu (Lisa Rock). Ryu then reveals herself to be a dragon, a magical being with the power to bring rain. Grateful, she rescues the monk and introduces him to dance. Still, she does not summon rain for the desperate, drought-ravaged land.
Genryo finally faces a cruel dilemma: if he cannot force Ryu to yield, the emperor (David D. Mitchell) will condemn Genryo's brother, an imperial guard (David Shih), to death. But if the dragon opens the gates of rain, she herself will die.
"Dragon Rain" does not end with a "happily ever after" for all. But it offers something richer: the idea that saving others can be more gratifying than saving yourself.
"Dragon Rain," through Nov. 18 at Vital Children's Theater Company, 432 West 42nd Street, third floor, Clinton, (212) 592-4508. Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets: $10. Reservations advised.
Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company