CAPITAL FRINGE DISPATCH: Dreams in the Arms of the Binding Lady
Normally, I’d say I wouldn’t trade places with a 20-year-old for anything. But I put my foot in my mouth yesterday when I discovered that Izumi Ashizawa of Izumi Ashizawa Performance is an assistant professor at my alma mater—d’oh, I miss everything! I would not at all, even remotely, in the slightest bit, mind studying for many hours and days with her.
Ashizawa’s show, Dreams in the Arms of the Binding Lady, closed its short run at Studio Theatre, but I recommend staying alert to whatever she comes up with next. Ashizawa is stylistically brilliant and clearly committed to a very sharp and specific form. I’m new to her work, but she seems to weave together several Japanese performance traditions with the avant garde—and I’d wager she gets a fair amount of her influence from her former teacher Tadashi Suzuki, world-renowned founder and director of the Suzuki Company of Toga (you also may recognize his name as co-founder of SITI Company with Anne Bogart).
If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for international theater and creative stage horror, among other things, so Dreams in the Arms of the Binding Lady fit the bill quite well. It’s really weird and really frightening. The show is centered around the Japanese legend of the Binding Lady, a spider species that can change its appearance into a seductive woman who, of course, mesmerizes and lures unsuspecting men into its threads. (Yes, this is one more beware-women legend, but I suppose it’s true that female spiders are pretty spooky.) The cast of five women (Ashizawa, Raechel Nolan, Vanessa Nolan, Claudia Rosales and Vanessa Taylor) roll and slither around their male victim (Nick Horan) in a series of freaked-out nightmares, each one more elaborate and bizarre than the last. The man starts awake between dreams, but can’t escape his fate no matter how far he runs.
This a talented cast: I didn’t see one moment of sloppiness in the approximate 45-minutes of strict movement work. And the show doesn’t skimp on the seduction aspect either; while rather scary and goosebump-inducing, it’s also one of the most tastefully erotic performances I’ve seen. The costumes, designed and created by Ashizawa and Marilyn Bertch, are also well worth mentioning—they were remarkably constructed and essential to the piece (check out the video above to see a few of them in action). Binding Lady takes quite a bit of energy to watch. The chased man’s fear never subsides, and the creepy chanting and labored breathing are unrelenting. It all adds to the surreal experience, though—the kind I’d like to have more of.
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