Proud Son

By Shu Matsui 

Translated by Kyoko Yosida and Andy Bragen

Volume 5, Issue 4 (Fall 2015)

 Shu Matsui’s Proud Son: Collective Reflections about the Production and Translation Process

Introduction…

Joan:   The English translation of Shu Matsui’s Proud Son (Jiman no Musuko in Japanese) by co-translators, Andy Bragen and Kyoko Yoshida, was commissioned by Ohio Northern University and produced there in the spring of 2013, under the direction of Desdemona Chiang; I served as both artistic director and production dramaturg. From the earliest stages of play selection and throughout the process, the translators were centrally involved, with the focus of the production placed on the development of the translation. This collection of reflections from dramaturg, director, and co-translators, aims to offer a window into that development, and into the ways in which the processes of translation and production, when linked, can offer reciprocal benefits.

An overview of the production…

Joan:   Proud Son was produced as part of Ohio Northern University’s International Play Festival; now in its eleventh year, the festival has staged world premieres of plays from around the globe; professional international theatre artists have come to Ohio and joined with undergraduate theatre students to produce theatre from sixteen countries, and plays translated from no fewer than seven languages. The primary goals of the festival are twofold: to promote new work for the international stage, and to expand the horizons of the University community by creating an innovative, intercultural theatre experience.

Bragen and Yoshida’s English translation of Proud Son premiered at ONU in April of 2013; the festival parameters included a fully staged production on an existing festival set which consisted of a two-story, flexible wall unit, made up of paneled modules, some of which opened or moved in various ways (sort of Mondrian, without the color). Much of the translation process occurred over the winter, and we began rehearsals in March with a third draft. Andy and Kyoko spent several days in rehearsal (that experience is detailed elsewhere). The next and final draft of the translation incorporated the results of the rich exchange that had occurred between the translators and the company. Shu Matsui came to Ohio from Tokyo for the performance week, meeting with members of the company, attending classes, and audience talkbacks. Seeing the play performed in English was a completely new experience for him, and he seemed both amazed and excited by the cultural transfer. The Festival culminated with a reception attended by the company, Shu Matsui, and members of the Japanese community.

Some thoughts on play selection…

Joan:   Once the choice of Japan as a focus for the festival was made, I relied on co-translators, Andy and Kyoko in selecting a playwright and a play. Kyoko’s knowledge of and contacts within the Japanese contemporary theatre community were crucial.

Kyoko:    We wanted to introduce a young playwright, and this choice narrowed candidates down to several playwrights from Tokyo and a few from Kansai (Osaka-Kyoto). I also wanted to pick a play that reflects the playful experimentalism and energy of contemporary small theaters in Japan. I consulted several people before talking to playwrights and their managers–theater fans in Tokyo, my colleague Prof. Hirata (German Theatre) at Keio, playwright Masataka Matsuda, and the Saison Foundation in Tokyo. I considered many writers, including the recipients of the Kishida Prize in the past several years.

Joan:   Despite Kyoko’s efforts, we faced a number of obstacles in finding a Japanese playwright willing to embrace the translation opportunity we were offering. In retrospect, the principal reasons for this seemed to involve cultural distinctions and distance, and differences in theatrical practices between our two countries. It seemed that the creation of a fully realized English translation of a Japanese play was not a significant attraction, and because we were so far away, there also seemed to be a suspicion on the part of Japanese managers as to our motives. Japanese companies were accustomed to having their work produced in Europe in Japanese, with added super-titles. Thus, the focus was on the original production of the play, not on the transfer into another language and culture. Kyoko was going to have to do some pretty hardcore convincing…

Kyoko:    I was quite overwhelmed at how difficult the process of finding a playwright for this translation project turned out to be. There are two reasons: 1) Japanese young playwrights are almost always directors of their own theater troupes, and 2) the recent proliferation of performing arts festivals in Asia and Europe. One major frustration was that I could rarely communicate with playwrights directly. I first had to deal with their international managers and they tended to talk business only; it was very difficult to persuade them of our project’s artistic merit. Unlike the small troupes from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, today’s young playwrights and troupes have great opportunities to have their work staged in international festivals; the entire troupe can travel to reproduce the exact same production as the original, with added subtitles. As a literary scholar, writer and translator, I am interested in how a text, once translated, changes and travels. This process is more interesting and crucial in theatre, because a text will be staged by different directors and different actors. I had the hardest time explaining to Japanese managers how making English subtitles for international performance is different from translating a play into English. In the end, with help from my colleague Prof. Sato (Film Theory), we resorted to a desperate measure: after glasses of sake with playwright Shu Matsui, we cornered him and talked him into having his play translated into another language. Poor Matsui-san!

About the playwright and the play…

Joan:  One of Japan’s leading young playwrights, Shu Matsui works as a director, writer, and actor in Tokyo. He first joined the eminent theatre company, Seinendan in 1996 as an actor, and subsequently developed his career as a writer and director, founding his own theatre company, Sample, in 2007. Proud Son (Jiman no Musuko) was first created and produced by Sample, and won the prestigious Kishida Drama Award in 2010. Other award-winning plays by Matsui include: Passage, World Premiere, and Family Portrait.

Proud Son is about a young man who has chosen to isolate himself from the world, a familiar phenomenon in contemporary Japan known as hikikomori (Oxford English Dictionary: “In Japan: abnormal avoidance of social contact: acute social withdrawal; (also) a person, typically an adolescent male, engaging in this; a recluse, a shut-in”). In Matsui’s whimsical but darkly absurdist depiction, Tadashi (the young man) has built an imaginary kingdom out of toys and stuffed animals; his mother, in an ironic twist of the social reality, brags about her son’s accomplishments and travels to visit his kingdom, with the help of a tour guide and accompanied by a brother and sister. The close but twisted bonds between the mother and son and between the brother and sister in the play suggest incest, and while Matsui’s inventive parody possesses absurdist comedy, it also communicates profound familial dysfunction and social isolation.

Many of Matsui’s plays explore relationships between parents and children. In an interview published on the website Performing Arts Network Japan in 2011, Matsui describes the images of incestuous sexuality between mother and son in Proud Son to be a metaphor for a “repulsive kind of dependency that can neither be called protection or independence” in Japanese society. He goes on in the same interview to characterize his view of the play’s action:

“[…] I wanted to make it a play that involved the parent and child fighting over control of certain spaces in order to stake out their own individual territory. Then, building on that, I wanted to introduce outsiders coming into the parent and child’s space and portray the process of them pushing and pulling each other out of those spaces. […] In this case “staking out one’s own territory” becomes an act of “expanding the realm of one’s own story.” People try to measure others by their own standards and only see the aspects of others that they are able to measure.”

(http://performingarts.jp/E/art_interview/1105/1.html)

Both of the central ideas Matsui addresses here – staking out territory and asserting one’s own story – informed the production in important ways. Similar to the original production in Japan, Tadashi created his kingdom in part with a giant piece of white fabric, spread for much of the performance across the acting area. It was manipulated to create different levels and locations, offered concealment, and transformed into objects. It became the physical manifestation of Tadashi’s assertion of his kingdom, and, as the tensions between mother and son rose, the sheet was fought over as a symbol of control. The fabric also possessed a quite wonderful capacity to envelop objects and people, which served Matsui’s thematic notion that in an effort to assert their own stories, there are characters that will try to envelope others, incorporating them into their version of reality, or personal narrative.

In a conversation with company members while in Ohio, Matsui said that he felt that the notion of engaging others in a character’s story, of one person’s fantasy being another person’s nightmare, that this was not entirely clear in our production. In part, this was a function of the various ways in which Proud Son’s nonlinear style and structure challenged our student actors. Matsui spoke about one of the unique features of the play being the lack of conventional motivation, and that he had aimed to create a world with less recognizable probability. Our actors tended to want to find the connections between moments in this play where its author had intentionally left those transitions out, seeking as he said, a different way of getting from one thing or place to the next.

The translation process…

Andy: Proud Son marks the third collaboration between Kyoko and myself on a new Japanese play. Along the way we have continued to discover and focus our collaborative process. Kyoko takes an initial pass at the script, translating the text as close to literally as possible. She includes notes, exploring certain moments, and raising many questions. Andy revises this first version, pushing further away from the original, and raising new questions and points of clarification. We pass the document back and forth over a period of months, continuing to clarify and refine. For the final steps, we get together in person and go through the script line by line, reading it out loud, checking it for sound and meaning. The result, we hope, is a translation that is both accurate and alive, a translation that captures the essence of the original play in its new American idiom.

I’ve been involved with a few processes where I’ve been able to develop translations while in workshop or rehearsal with actors, both at the Lark Theatre on their US-Mexico Playwrights Exchange, on plays I’ve translated from the Spanish, and at The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis on other Japanese plays I’ve co-translated. I always find it quite helpful. It is a chance for more people to engage with the work, a chance for questions to be raised, and ambiguities to be explored.  It’s a chance to hear what the piece sounds like coming out of actors’ mouths. For this particular process, it was also an opportunity for Kyoko and me to be in the same city and country, at the same time, to work in person, as opposed to via email. For a co-translation, this is absolutely essential.

Kyoko: For any co-translation to work, translators have to meet face to face at some point to bounce the sound of the text off of each other. This is especially crucial for poetry and theatre. You cannot just let your translation reverberate in your head. I appreciate how Andy checks and double-checks the sound of our translations. This, I find, is the most crucial part of our process. It is all the better if this is at rehearsal – we can invite the playwright, the director, the dramaturg, and other production staff members and actors into the process. The trained actors have their very specific, professional way of interpreting characters and texts, and watching them analyze the text is always thrilling and teaches me a lot. In the case of Proud Son, the student actors posed many questions helpful for us in fine-tuning the characters’ voices, especially those of Mother and Tadashi. They also played the role of the firsthand reader of the text, so listening to their comments and reactions, I could see when the translation was a bit off from the original, or when some translational ingenuity was required to fill in the cultural gaps.

Andy:  Proud Son is written in the plain, contemporary, spoken language of Tokyo, and incorporates many set phrases and clichés. There are a few proverbs used effectively in Japanese that made for a trans-Pacific headache for the translators. A reconstruction of our notes from one such proverb offers an illustration of our process:

Literal Translation

BROTHER: Some say, once you live there, it becomes your metropolis, don’t they.

MAN:  In some cases, it is the prison for the rest of your life.

Kyoko searched and searched for a substitute proverb in English…

12/3/12: Kyoko’s first pass (Tokyo and Yokohama)

BROTHER:  Some say, the hermit thinks the sun shines nowhere but in his cell, don’t they.

MAN:  The hermit might be spending the rest of his life in the prison cell.

Andy sticks with the proverb, but unsure of its point.

12/10/12: Andy’s first pass (Lancaster, PA and New York City)

BROTHER: There’s a saying about a hermit who thinks the sun shines nowhere but in his cell.  Isn’t that how it goes?

MAN: The hermit may end up spending the rest of his life in that cell.

(Andy: What are we getting at here?)

Kyoko returns with an explanation.

2/13/13: Notes from Kyoko (Tokyo and Yokohama)

That saying about a hermit: the proverb used here in Japanese is literally, “Once you live there, it is the capital.” I picked this English proverb with a hermit because of the play’s plot and MAN’s response to BROTHER, referring to a prison cell…

Finally, the two brains meet in Ada, Ohio. In rehearsal, hearing the actors read the lines, it became evident that the words were not immediately clear, even to the translators themselves… but this is precisely why we had to travel all this way to sit at one desk.

4/7/13  Kyoko and Andy’s collaboration (Ada, Ohio)

BROTHER: Once we move in, it’s our castle, like the saying goes, right?

MAN: A man’s castle may well become his prison.

The translation process as it influenced the directing and acting…

Desdemona:  Having Andy and Kyoko at the table with us was like being one step closer to the playwright. I usually think that directing a play is much like playing a game of Telephone – with each additional collaborator/dramaturg/deviser you bring into the game, you find yourself one step further removed from the original source. But in this case, because of the lack of cultural access I personally had to the piece and my inability to understand the source text, having Kyoko in rehearsal was immensely helpful. In many ways, she became a touchstone for me in my attempts to understand and navigate Japanese culture. And while, of course, no single person is responsible for representing his/her entire culture, I still found her individual perspectives and opinions very useful.

The issue of equity and authenticity always comes into question when we find ourselves telling stories and experiences that are not our own. As a Chinese American, I only have impressions of what “being Japanese” is like, with the majority of my impressions sourced from American popular culture, the media, and my own self-acknowledged fascination towards the “kawaii” culture of Japan – the cute and infantile (an idea that plays a significant role in Proud Son).

I was at first a bit nervous about approaching this play – I was concerned about misappropriation and generating images that could be construed as reductive or offensive. I had the feeling that the cast shared some of my concerns, and we were able to articulate this vis-à-vis the two critical questions that came out of our first read-through:

  1. To what extent do we want to consider the body language and physical conventions of Japanese culture, and/or the vocal rhythms of the Japanese language in our production?
  2. Are we aiming to create a world that “feels” in some way Japanese, or are we “translating” this story into an entirely American idiom?

What is fascinating is that, as members of the millennial generation, every member of our cast was able to relate deeply to the themes and story of Proud Son, regardless of the culture gap between Japan and America. They all had a personal connection to the play, and what it meant to feel oneself separate from reality. They shared stories about parental dependency, friends who were hermits or nerds or social recluses, and talked about how socializing through technology, Facebook, and World of Warcraft was far safer than engaging with real life.

The translators’ influence on the dramaturgy and cultural understanding of the play

Joan:   Given that the kindred processes of translation and dramaturgy both aim to accomplish cultural interpretation, it’s not surprising that on this production, having access to the translators during the rehearsal process was invaluable to the company’s understanding of the source culture. A good example would be the character of Tadashi’s Mother who is crucial to the play, and around whom revolved a number of issues related to both dramaturgy and translation. Tadashi’s mother possesses all of the traditional subservience of a Japanese wife and mother, seeing it as her primary role in life to serve both husband and son. This was not difficult for our cast to understand on a factual level, but to accept this cultural character trait without belittling it from a contemporary, Western position of superiority meant a more nuanced understanding. Kyoko’s many cultural examples, including those from her own family, were extremely helpful.

The mother’s language at times possessed a youthful, almost childlike quality that we discussed at some length because it seemed to contradict her age and stature. One conclusion we came to is that the childlike language and behavior shared by many of the characters suggested a form of regression or arrested social development. Tadashi’s Mother possessed a quirky combination of this youthfulness and a kind of throwback to very traditional, Japanese gender assumptions. One line in particular that we wrestled with expresses this combination. Tadashi’s Mother imagines her son’s new kingdom (ironically) to be like Hawaii and so needs a swimsuit, but when the tour guide offers to sell her a bikini she replies:

“No, thanks! Those are for youngsters, but maybe you have something that someone like me could put on, something of that sort. Something like a cover-up chemise would do. A chemise. Wouldn’t there be one of those? A chemise.”

The repetition of the word chemise sounded extremely odd to me (in an earlier draft it was bathing costume), in part because the contemporary image it can conjure is of sexy lingerie, which was clearly not the character’s intention. In the end, the word worked as an expression of a socially awkward moment (Tadashi’s Mother is traveling to her son’s kingdom with two much younger people, and is trying to fit in), but also because of what Kyoko said the word suggested from a Japanese perspective: middle-aged women in Japan in the era prior to air-conditioning, wearing shifts they called chemises in the hot summer evenings. Our discussions with the translators in rehearsals which often began like this one did, around the issue of word choice and nuance of expression, invariably opened up to include points of cultural context and characterization, and enriched the production in innumerable ways.

Desdemona:  Oh god, the chemise! We must have spent an hour in rehearsal trying to figure out what it was and why the mother would ask for such a thing—everyone in the cast thought it was a piece of lingerie, or a teddy, as opposed to the medieval shift or smock or perhaps a large shirt (in the original French). While those definitions are accurate and still hold up in Japan, they’re archaic to us. So, it wasn’t the translation from the Japanese that was the problem, but that the word itself changed meaning in our country over the years.

Issues of tone and style

Andy:  We worked with Desdemona to encourage the actors to not be afraid of bigger choices, for example we encouraged the actress playing the Mother to keep exploring the character’s’ submissive physicality. Also, and this is something that Desdemona had already been working on for a while, we encouraged the actor playing Tadashi to explore choices that were more child-like, and seemingly less pre-determined, less “under control.”

Desdemona: One of the first questions I asked the actors in our rehearsal was: What is the difference between stereotype and archetype?

We embrace the term “archetype” as the idea of something universal, inclusive and an originator of other forms. The term “stereotype” has a negative social connotation that is about overgeneralizing and reducing. One is far more troubling than the other, but both rely on simplification as a point of entry towards an attempt at understanding.

I am not Japanese. The actors aren’t Japanese. But, the world of the play and its characters are. How do we adequately and accurately present this? I had to be clear with the cast that this was going to be an American production with an American perspective, but using Japanese source material. There was a concern around taking on physical forms that mimicked our impressions of what Japanese culture looked like, a concern around performing yellow face. I knew that on some level there would be the possibility of missteps in the arena of representation (both in ideology and execution). It could be potentially problematic as a product, but ultimately useful as a learning experience. And I was willing to accept that as a condition of the process.

We began by addressing the problem head on – if we were afraid of stereotype then let’s start there. What were our perceptions of a “typical” Japanese mother and son? Do they align or misalign with what we see in the play? And how do we explode those stereotypes to create fully realized characters with thought and detail?

Hillary Abbott, who played Tadashi’s Mother, struggled the most with finding her character because she had to work across a cultural gap and a generational gap. We felt that the most effective way for her to navigate the role was to work from an “outside-in” method, using physicality to motivate psychology. We started by establishing physical limitations to her character – she was only allowed to walk taking tiny steps, with her knees touching at all times. She was also required to nod once for every step she took, since her character wears a pedometer strapped to her head. At first, the movement looked mechanical, fake, clunky and perhaps a bit “stereotypical.” But over time, the actor’s subliminal intuition starts to work, and she began to fill that form with impulses, thought, and meaning.

Vocally, I wasn’t interested in employing a dialect or cadence to somehow show “Japanese-ness” in the production. I’ve always found that annoying when I see it in other productions, where, for example, French characters speak English in French accents to indicate that they’re speaking French. It’s a very Anglo-centric perspective, as if we need to have English as a reference point in order to convey other languages. If the characters don’t speak Japanese with an accent, then the English translation doesn’t merit an accent either.

Conclusions…

Joan:   We hope that these reflections shed some light on Shu Matsui’s play, Proud Son, and offer some observations about the development of a translation through the production process that might be useful to other practitioners. Clearly the students at Ohio Northern University benefited tremendously from the talented and sensitive direction provided by Desdemona Chiang, and by the opportunity to engage with the co-translation work of Andy Bragen and Kyoko Yoshida. It was an extremely rewarding, intercultural journey for all involved, and well worth the “desperate measures” and “glasses of sake” to which Kyoko had to resort – we remain forever grateful to her!

            — Joan Robbins, Andy Bragen, Kyoko Yoshida, and Desdemona Chiang

Shu Matsui (Playwright) is a director, writer, and actor. Born in 1972 in Tokyo, Matsui first joined the Seinendan Theatre Company in 1996 as an actor, and subsequently developed his career as a writer and director. Both his first play, Passage, and his second, World Premiere, won the New Face Award for Writers from the Japan Playwrights Association. Matsui founded his own company, Sample, in 2007; in 2008, his play Family Portrait, written for Sample, was shortlisted for the Kunio Kishida Award. He has directed several European productions of Japanese plays, and Matsui’s own plays have been produced in numerous countries.

Andy Bragen’s honors include a Workspace Residency and a Process Space Residency with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Clubbed Thumb Biennial Commission, and a Jerome Fellowship.  His play This is My Office was produced off-Broadway in the autumn of 2013 by The Play Company.  Other plays and translations have been seen and heard at numerous theatres, including PS122, Queens Theatre in the Park, Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep, and Soho Rep. He has an MFA from Brown University and is a member of New Dramatists. For more information: www.andybragen.com

Kyoko Yoshida was born and raised in Fukuoka, Japan. She received her BA and MA from Kyoto University, and studied creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. From 2001 to 2014, she taught English at Keio University in Tokyo. In 2005, she was an honorary fellow at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, and in 2006-07, a visiting fellow at the Program for Literary Arts at Brown University. In 2014, she moved to Kyoto to teach American Literature at Ritsumeikan University.

Kyoko has worked extensively as a translator of contemporary experimental Japanese poetry and drama, and as an author of fiction. Spectacle & Pigsty: Poetry by Kiwao Nomura (OmniDawn, 2011, co-translated with Forrest Gander) won the 2012 Best Translated Book Award in Poetry in the US and the 2012 Toson Memorial Rekitei Award in Japan. Her first collection of short stories in English, Disorientalism, came out in 2014 from Vagabond Press in Sydney.

Desdemona Chiang is a stage director based in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area. Co-Founder of Azeotrope. Directing credits: Playmakers Repertory Company, Aurora Theatre Company, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Shotgun Players, Crowded Fire Theatre Company, Impact Theatre, Playwrights Foundation, Golden Thread Productions, Washington Ensemble Theatre, One Minute Play Festival, among others. Alumnus: SDC Sir John Gielgud Directing Fellow, Drama League Directing Fellow, TCG Young Leader of Color, Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and Directors Lab West. 2012 Gregory Award Recipent for Outstanding Direction. Adjunct Faculty, Cornish College of the Arts. BA: University of California at Berkeley. MFA Directing: University of Washington.

Joan Robbins heads the B.A. program in Theatre at Ohio Northern University where she serves on the theatre faculty and works as both a director and dramaturg. She teaches courses in dramatic literature, theatre history, playwriting, and directing. She is also the co-founder of ONU’s International Play Festival, a platform for new work from around the globe. Joan has worked as a dramaturg and as a director in both the academic and professional theatre, and served as Director of Theatre at the University of Scranton from 1991-2000. She holds an MFA and DFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from the Yale School of Drama.

 

PROUD SON

Cast:

Tadashi’s Mother

Tadashi

Man

Brother (older)

Sister (younger)

Neighbor

 

Center stage: a chair.

Tadashi’s Mother enters and sits in the chair.

After looking around, she drinks water from the glass in her hand and steadies her breath.

 

TADASHI’S MOTHER: 

Tadashi’s Mother drinks some more water.

…Don’t blab so much in front of others, that’s what my late husband used to tell me. “The way you say things, none of it makes any sense…better you just nod your head.” Yesyes, Yesyes – just keep nodding.

Man enters. He eats chunks of fruit – with a pocketknife rather than a fork.

MAN: Yesyes, and?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: And before I knew it, it got to be a habit. Just nodding my head like this…

She nods her head in short, quick motions.

Nodding yesyes to anyone and everyone, yesyes while talking to myself…

Nodding her head

Yesyes to the mirror

Nodding her head

Yesyes, yesyes…

MAN: A one trick pony.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: My husband thought it creepy and he wouldn’t go out with me or talk to me. Can you believe it? He’s the one who started it. But then one day, he brought home a pedometer, tossed it to me and told me to put it on. A pedometer. What could I do but get a scarf and tie it to my head? And then, guess what… it worked. I’ve got a purpose… in life.

MAN: I see.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: It was like, “Wow, I nodded seven thousand times today. I’ll try for even more tomorrow.” A whole new world had opened up. From then on, my husband would check in with me, asking “Hey, how many today?” Though that just was about it for our conversations.

MAN: He sounds like a nice husband.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Yes, I suppose so… come to think of it, I feel bad, rather sorry for him. For having married such a nitwit. He could’ve found a better fit, I’m sure.

MAN: I highly doubt it.

He pulls a souvenir doll out from his bag.

Think of this as your husband. Do you see any resemblance?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Appraising the doll.) No, not really.

MAN: (Putting the doll back into the bag.) Okay, I see.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: …Yeah, well, but my son, I have an only son, and unlike me, he’s really very impressive. Not to brag or anything, but… well, let me tell you…

MAN: And off she goes.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Some say, he’s, maybe, greater than that man… you know who… the one born in the manger, who got pelted with stones… you know? He was uhhh… crucified…

MAN: Jesus Christ?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Well, for example, you know… some say…? It’s not me saying it, but there is this rumor I hear, or something like it, right?

MAN: (Pulling a crucifix out from his bag.) A steal. Only 800 yen.

Tadashi’s Mother ignores Man’s offer. She pulls out a postcard.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Take a look at this.

A postcard from Hawaii is projected onto the wall.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: That’s Hawaii. I want to visit Hawaii, I’ve been saying that for a long long time. He remembered and he sent me this card. Here’s what he wrote, “I built a nation. Things are good. Tadashi.”

Tadashi’s Mother pulls a muumuu and a pair of sunglasses out from her bag and puts them on.

 TADASHI’S MOTHER: Amazing. He built a nation! I bet it’s just like Hawaii. Tadashi’s nation. That’s his name. Tadashi Furukawa. That’s my son’s name. Tadashi. To right the wrongs, to fight for justice, this is why Father named him Tadashi.

MAN: I see.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: I’m overdue for a visit, the sooner the better, but well, let’s see… suitcase, clothes… and… my pickles. What else do I need?

MAN: You’ll need to acclimate yourself to the atmosphere there.

The Hawaiian postcard dissolves.

Man pulls a number of goods out of his bag. Many are random tchotchkes like postcards and a small music box.

MAN: (Pulling out a small bottle.) Here you go: sand from Waikiki Beach…

Pulling out a plastic bottle and a can

Here we have Waikiki seawater, and here, its air.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Nodding.) Oh my, oh my… are these things real?

MAN: They’re all real. Do you want them?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: May I?

Man pulls a calculator out from his bag and adds figures.

MAN: 5000 yen total.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Never mind. No thank you.

MAN: Your loss. So, please wait here. Sit back, relax and enjoy the pleasant trip.

Man exits.

A song is heard, perhaps the sort one would hear chiming from a cheap music box.

A night landscape is projected onto the wall. Mother looks at her postcard and soon falls asleep.

The ideogram (Tadashi) appears on the wall. Below it appears, “The Kingdom of Tadashi.”

Tadashi and Sister enter.

Tadashi spreads out a large cloth sheet, covering the entire stage.

The music box-style song transforms itself into telephone hold music.

The sound cuts out.

SISTER: Hello. Thank you for waiting.

TADASHI: …Uh, hello, yeah, um, hey what the heck?… I mean, uhhh, another ten seconds, and I was gonna hang up.

SISTER: Very sorry, sir.

TADASHI: …And so?

SISTER: The manager is busy at the moment, so we’ll need to call you-

TADASHI: (Interrupting) Huh? So you’re saying no one else is around? Clearly, I’d get nowhere with you…

SISTER: Well, as I said, because flyer distribution is outsourced-

TADASHI: (Interrupting) As I’ve been saying, over and over, just tell them to stop stuffing my mailbox. That’s all.

SISTER: Am I correct in assuming that your apartment building has a common trash area?

TADASHI: What the? …That’s not the point. The point is… more junk means more trash. More trash means more carbon dioxide. If we go on like this, what’s it all going to come to?

SISTER: Well…

TADASHI: I’ll tell you what. Doomsday.

SISTER: I see.

TADASHI: So the question is: what does happiness look like? As I was saying. Are cicadas happy? Or unhappy?

SISTER: Cicadas, you say? …I’m not sure.

TADASHI: You’re not sure. Too bad. So shall we now discuss the happiness of cicadas?

SISTER: Ummm, well, my apologies sir, but in order to express opinions and engage in consultations, you will first need to subscribe to our premiere monthly-

TADASHI: (Interrupting) So I have to pay money in order to express my opinions?

SISTER: No, not at all, you can start with a trial subscription. So long as you cancel within two months there will be no charge.

TADASHI: I will not subscribe.

SISTER: But for now, it’s complimentary, though-

TADASHI: (Interrupting) I’ll say it again: transfer me to your superior.

SISTER: You won’t consider a trial member-

TADASHI: (Interrupting) I don’t need a trial membership.

SISTER: But sir, good news, I’ve just double-checked and if you add up all your customer points, you’ll be eligible for another two months of-

TAKASHI: (Interrupting) You have no right to add up my customer points!

SISTER: Well no, of course not, not without your permission, um-

TADASHI: (Interrupting) Put your boss on, damnit! No trials, no subscription, no points, no nothing!

SISTER: 

TADASHI: Um… hello?

SISTER: There’s nothing you need? Nothing at all?

TADASHI: Huh?

SISTER: …What a coincidence. That’s the third time I’ve heard that today… You don’t need me?

TADASHI: No, it’s not you that I don’t need, you know?

SISTER: You’re absolutely right about everything. No need for junk mail, no need for trial subscriptions, no need for me…

TADASHI: Now hold on, that’s not what I said.

SISTER: But this is my duty. It’s my job, as Operator Asanuma, to stand by, to listen to you.

TADASHI: I don’t not need you.

SISTER: Please now, there’s no need to pretend.

TADASHI: No, really, I mean it.

SISTER: Well then. But you did still yell at me, right? …So, do you mind if I yell back?

TADASHI: What?

SISTER: It’s unfair. Cause, like, here at work, we’re always getting yelled at but we never get a chance to respond, so as a result we receive regular counseling. It’s hard on the nerves.

TADASHI: That’s your company’s fault.

SISTER: You’re right. …Agh! Damnit! I’ve had enough!

TADASHI: Huh? Who are you yelling at?

SISTER: …It’s not working! Venting anger isn’t calming me down. I’m just getting more upset. Even worse, I’m done for – they’re gonna fire me.

TADASHI: Really?

SISTER: Yes. They record everything. …Oh no, the boss is looking this way. Oh no, here he comes, here he comes. Oh no, agghhh, agghhh!

TADASHI: Hey! …Do you want to come here?

SISTER: Huh?

TADASHI: Well, I…Well it’s no big deal, but I’ve started this fun place.

SISTER: A fun place?

TADASHI: Yes. Maybe you could come visit, if you have some free time?

High-pitched rock music, possibly from an adjacent apartment, may be heard leaking through the walls.

TADASHI: (Looking toward where the music is coming from.) Agh! Damnit!

Tadashi hangs up the phone and exits.

Neighbor enters.

She is dressed in a trashy outfit. She hangs laundry on a clothesline, stretching out some flashy and sexy lingerie, a T-shirt with a skull on it, and a leopard-patterned blouse among other items.

She sings along with the music while hanging her clothes to dry.

Neighbor exits.

Tadashi enters. He stares at the hanging lingerie.

Neighbor enters.

Tadashi exits, flustered.

Neighbor hangs another piece she’d forgotten and exits.

Brother and Sister enter from opposite sides.

BROTHER: Hey. Hot, right?

Brother wheels a rolling suitcase. Sister lugs two shoulder bags.

SISTER: Yeah.

BROTHER: Anyway… I couldn’t sleep much last night. Was nervous.

SISTER: I could. I take sleeping pills.

BROTHER: You shouldn’t depend on that kind of stuff.

SISTER: It’s cause I can’t sleep.

BROTHER: Late nights can be nice.

SISTER: No. They’re not.

BROTHER: Okay, right… Can I really come with you?

SISTER: It should be cool – I think. It’s not like you have anywhere else to go.

BROTHER: Yeah.

SISTER: What about your job?

BROTHER: Yeah. I quit it. Had a farewell party yesterday. Got a bouquet, see, and they gave me a card.

SISTER: Nice.

Brother passes the bouquet and the card to Sister.

Sister tosses the bouquet away, then rips the card to pieces and throws it away.

BROTHER: Hey!

SISTER: Don’t you get it yet? Where things stand?  Never look back. Those days are done.

BROTHER: But these are… social obligations.

SISTER: We’re cutting those obligations off, now aren’t we? It should feel like you’re entering a monastery.

BROTHER: Okay, got it. …What about your job?

SISTER: I’ll find one.

BROTHER: Sorry about all this.

SISTER: You should be sorry.

Brother pulls a sketchbook out of his rolling suitcase.

BROTHER: I was cleaning the house yesterday, and look what I found.

SISTER: Wow, it’s been so long. I can’t believe you still have this.

BROTHER: Well yeah. You had all those stickers you were into. I went ahead and stuck them on these pages and that got you really upset.

SISTER: Cause those stickers were just for me – to look at all by myself.

BROTHER: You said, “I don’t want these anymore!” and tossed them away. So I picked them up and held onto it.

SISTER: Is that how it was?

Sister flips through the sketchbook, which has a number of cutout pictures inserted between its pages.

BROTHER: What’s that?

SISTER: (Showing a drawing to Brother.) Princess Sakiko. A manga I made up. See, she’s dancing with Antonius.

BROTHER: Cool.

SISTER: Wooow!

Sister flips through the drawings.

BROTHER: I’ve got some drawings in there too. That drawing of the tire is mine. I used to really like tires.

SISTER: I remember you’d rush out in front of cars and nearly get run over.

BROTHER: That’s right.

Flipping through the book, they come across cutout pictures, icons of Mother and Father, drawn by Sister as a child.

SISTER: Wow, it’s been so long.

BROTHER: That’s Mom… and Dad, too.

SISTER: (Holding up the parental icons.) We’ll decorate their graves with these.

BROTHER: They’re still alive.

SISTER: But we must think of them as dead.

BROTHER: That’s not possible.

SISTER: Why not? It’s not impossible. Why not turn them into memories? There is no more going back.

BROTHER: Can’t we?

SISTER: What, are you chickening out?

BROTHER: You know, I can’t go number two anywhere but at home.

SISTER: How come?

BROTHER: I’m scared someone might pop out of nowhere and attack me.

SISTER: But that happened way back in grade school.

BROTHER: Water, trash, people and whatnot, all sorts of stuff would fall from above.

SISTER: No, that won’t do. You’re gonna have to learn to go wherever.

BROTHER: I’ll try.

SISTER: If not, just wear diapers.

BROTHER: Yeah, that might be more realistic.

SISTER: Right. From now on, everything’s gonna be different. There is no going back.

BROTHER: Good-bye, Mama!

SISTER: Good-bye, Papa.

BROTHER: (To Sister) I love you.

SISTER: (To Brother) I love you too.

Brother tries to touch Sister.

SISTER: No.

BROTHER: Yeah.

SISTER: Like always. I want you to love me without touching me, like always.

BROTHER: I’ll never touch you, never ever.

Brother and Sister arouse each other without touching.

SISTER: Promise me that you’ll love me forever. Let me believe. This, here, between you and me, now there’s something of true value.

BROTHER: I promise. I won’t let anyone come between us. No one else will find their way into our paradise. So we’ll be all right.

Man enters holding a closed umbrella up high like a tour guide.

He finger-whistles.

Brother and Sister move apart.

MAN: Thank you for waiting.

BROTHER: Oh, hi. Are you our guide?

MAN: Yes. I’m the guide. Isn’t it obvious, from the way I’m dressed?

SISTER: Nice to meet you.

MAN: Nice to meet you too. If I may?

BROTHER: Sure.

MAN: You’re traveling rather light. Are you going to be okay like that?

BROTHER: Well… it’s not suitable?

MAN: That would depend upon the particular individual. With the caveat that we shall assume zero liability for whatever does or does not happen.

SISTER: (To brother) What about these sandals?

BROTHER: (To sister) I don’t know…

To man

Do you?

MAN: Difficult to say.

Man pulls a pair of sneakers out from his bag.

SISTER: Oh, thank you.

BROTHER: Much obliged.

Sister is about to put the sneakers on.

MAN: 10000 yen.

BROTHER: What?

MAN: 9500.

SISTER: So these aren’t…

MAN: Loaners? No, ma’am. …Tell you what, I’ll cut you a deal and slash the price to… 5000 yen.

BROTHER: Well, in that case…

SISTER: No way! We don’t have that kind of money. No, thank you.

The man reacts in an exaggerated manner, falling to his knees.

BROTHER: I’m sorry.

MAN: To be perfectly frank… we are fast approaching the terra incognita of terra incognitas. You must remain on high alert, or else the smallest of incidents may lead to a crisis.

SISTER: But they aren’t absolutely necessary, are they?

MAN: That depends on how you look at it. I wouldn’t say absolutely, but statistically there is a certain likelihood.

SISTER: Then it should have been put that way in the first place.

MAN: No ma’am. I’d like to stress first of all that I will bear zero liability – none whatsoever. Nor is the nation in a position to bear such responsibility. It’s still uninsured.

BROTHER: Once we move in, it’s our castle, like the saying goes, right?

MAN: A man’s castle may well become his prison.

Tadashi’s Mother gets up from the chair and joins Man and the others.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Good morning.

MAN: Good morning. Did you sleep well?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Overnight trains are hard on the elderly.

Brother and Sister stare at Tadashi’s Mother, who is dressed in a muumuu, and wearing sunglasses.

BROTHER: And she is?

MAN: Oh right. This is Tadashi’s Mother.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Hello. How do you do. I’m Tadashi’s Mother.

BROTHER: How do you do.

SISTER: Hi.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Gee, you guys sure are young. Is the Kingdom of Tadashi popular with youngsters too?

Brother and Sister look at each other.

BROTHER: …Uh, yes. It is. Kind of like a retreat.

SISTER: (Pointing at Tadashi’s Mother.) Is she dressed suitably?

MAN: Well, she’s proceeding at her own risk, so yes.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: I forgot to pack a swimsuit, but I suppose we can find one over there.

SISTER: …yeah, I’m not so sure.

MAN: Would you like to buy one? It is, I should mention, a bikini set.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: No, thanks! Those are for youngsters, but maybe you have something that someone like me could put on, something of that sort. Something like a coverup chemise would do. A chemise. Wouldn’t there be one of those? A chemise.

BROTHER: A chemise, you say… I don’t know.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Don’t you have any sunglasses?

SISTER: Huh?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Pointing at her own.) These. You’ll need to be careful with the harsh sun over there.

BROTHER: We’ll get some when we’re there then.

MAN: Those at least I can lend you.

Man takes out three pairs of sunglasses. They each put a pair on.

MAN: Time for the ferryboat to depart.

A gusty wind.

Man, Tadashi’s Mother, Brother, and Sister look toward where the wind is coming from.

A light beams in. It gradually turns soft.

A postcard with a picture of a luxury cruise boat is projected onto the screen.

Everyone is having a good time, holding a glass of wine, for example.

Relaxing music flows in.             

Tadashi’s Mother takes a seat.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: The guide kept pouring me more wine, and there I was tipsy, walking down the deck, and this hunky sailor is holding me tight, saying, “Are you all right, madam?” and I reply, “Yes, this is a dance. I’m doing a dance step. Would you like to dance with me?” and he’s blushing bright scarlet, saying, “At your service, madame,” so I get mischievous and press my breast against him.

Man, Brother, and Sister lie down to sleep, using their luggage as pillows.

Tadashi’s Mother gradually nods off in the seat.

Neighbor enters and stands a while, in a daze.

She hangs her clothes in silence. Among them are clothes for a child, including a superhero costume. She puts her arm in its sleeve and manipulates it like a ventriloquist’s dummy. It creates the illusion of a mother and child frolicking.

Neighbor exits.

MAN: We’re here.

BROTHER: (Waking up) Ughhh.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Drinking water) The sun sure is harsh here.

BROTHER: (Gently shaking his sister.) Hey, we’re here.

The sister does not wake up just yet.

MAN: (Pulling out a cell phone.) I’ll give a call.

Man walks around with the cell phone, but he can’t get service.

BROTHER: (Shaking his sister some more.) Wake up.

SISTER: No!

Sister shakes off Brother’s hand and rolls around, still asleep.

BROTHER: Whatever.

Brother pulls out a portable game device and starts playing.

Tadashi’s Mother opens up a parasol.

Tadashi enters. He spies on Sister from a hidden corner.

SISTER: (Talking in her sleep, but businesslike.) Hello. Thank you for waiting. It’s my pleasure, sir. Yes. This is Asanuma on the line. Thank you for your patience.

She keeps repeating this phrase.

Tadashi covers Sister with a sheet of cloth.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: My son, you see, is really quite gentle. He’s so gentle, it’s hard to know just what to do. I recall how he always used to bring home stray cats.

Man hangs a stuffed cat on the laundry rope and squeezes its body. It meows.

MAN: 1000 yen. One double A battery and it meows.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Ignoring Man) Father wouldn’t let them in the house, so my son set up a cardboard box under a neighborhood shrub and hid them away there.

Tadashi smooths the sheet over Sister so that the contours of her body may be seen.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Who knows where, but he would find cats run over by cars, kittens with malnutrition, you name it, and he’d bring them all together. He called it “the clinic.” Meaning the cardboard box. He’d say, “Mom, I’m going to the clinic today.” His bike was “the ambulance,” and breadcrumbs and milk were “the medicine.” Sooner or later, the cats would meow loud at night and neighbors would find them and have them put down. But then my son would find ever more cats somewhere and keep them hidden away. As if it were his own special mission.

Man puts his cell phone away and picks up his bag.

MAN: Let’s go.

BROTHER: Oh hey?

MAN: What?

BROTHER: She’s not here.

MAN: In the bathroom maybe?

BROTHER: No, she was sleeping. Right here.

To Tadashi’s Mother

Have you seen her?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: I don’t know.

MAN: I thought I told you two to stick together.

BROTHER: I’m sorry.

Tadashi’s Mother, Man, and Brother exit to look for Sister.

Tadashi enters. He looks around. He further spreads the sheet he first spread, expanding his territory.

Once he confirms that no one else is around, he brings in Sister and lays her down on the sheet.

Tadashi sets up small speakers and plays sounds like water trickling down a rivulet, and cicadas.

SISTER: (Waking up and looking around) Huh?

TADASHI: Huh?

SISTER: Whaaa? …Where am I?

TADASHI: Um… This spot is called “Gurgle Brook.”

SISTER: …Huh?

TADASHI: Welcome to “Tadashi.”

SISTER: Tadashi?

TADASHI: You’re Miss Asanuma, right?

SISTER: …Who are you?

TADASHI: I’m Tadashi. Tadashi Furukawa. … “Are cicadas happy?”

SISTER: …Oh.

TADASHI: Welcome to the Kingdom of “Tadashi.”

SISTER: Wait, where are the others?

TADASHI: What others?

SISTER: My brother and the guide, and, and your mother was with us, too.

TADASHI: Hard to say. Perhaps they got held up at the border?

SISTER: Maybe.

TADASHI: I’ll go ahead and put in a word.

SISTER: Thank you. So, are you sure it’s okay for us to stay here?

TADASHI: Yesyes… I’ll work it out. …

Into his cell phone

Uh, uh, yea-taru, yea-taru. … Yesyes, they really were stuck there. But they’ll be okay now.

SISTER: Uh, what was that? You just said… yea-taru… right?

TADASHI: You mean the Tadashian language?

SISTER: Yes.

TADASHI: Basically all there is is “yes” and “no.” “Yea-taru” means “yes” and “Nay-falu” means “no.” Everything else comes from their combination.

SISTER: That’s it?

TADASHI: That’s it. The fewer the better, words, right?

SISTER: I see. But what about something that’s neither “yes” nor “no”?

TADASHI: Yeatarunayfalu.”

SISTER: No, I mean, like “eating.”

TADASHI: Anything will do. You’ll get the hang of it. Gesture – use your hands.

SISTER: Okay, right.

TADASHI: But we don’t use much Tadashian on a regular basis. Primarily, I suppose, at the festivals? That’s where we use it most.

SISTER: The festivals? Oh I love festivals. What sort of festivals?

TADASHI: What sort? The festivals are just festivals. Like when it gets festive, it’s a festival… to put it into words… you know…

SISTER: Oh, I’m sorry.

TADASHI: You worry too much about too many things. You should take things as they are, not like anything in particular. Tadashi is a nation of nothing particular.

SISTER: Okay. So do you mind if we settle somewhere around here?

TADASHI: Please, go right ahead.

Sister notices the speakers and the sound effects machine.

SISTER: Excuse me…

Pointing at the speakers

…but what are those?

TADASHI: These…

When Tadashi touches a speaker, it moos.

SISTER: Oh wow.

When Sister touches the sound effects machine, various sounds of the ocean, rain, city bustle, laughter and such come out from the speakers.

SISTER: Ah!… I see… yes.

TADASHI: Please feel free.

SISTER: Thank you.

Sister shoots a grin at Tadashi.

TADASHI: …What’s the matter?

SISTER: Nice beard.

TADASHI: Um…ahhh… really?

SISTER: Yes. I love beards.

Sister touches Tadashi’s beard.

TADASHI: Well, a beard is just… a beard is…

SISTER: Awesome. It’s really beardy.

TADASHI: Uh, is it? … My beard is beardy… I see, I mean…

SISTER: My father had a beard too.

TADASHI: Indeed… I see, I mean…

SISTER: Kinda sorta cute.

TADASHI: (Stiffening) 

Neighbor enters.

NEIGHBOR: You there?

TADASHI: (As if talking to himself.) What the… ugh!

NEIGHBOR: If you’re here, speak up. You’ve got guests.

Man, Brother, and Tadashi’s Mother enter.

MAN: Excooose me. Delivery. Right this way.

BROTHER: There she is!

SISTER: Brother!

Brother and Sister draw close to one another and look into each other’s eyes.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Tadashi! Tadashi!

TADASHI: What?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Removing the sunglasses.) I’m finally here.

TADASHI: Where have you been?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: We looked everywhere.

Pointing toward Neighbor.

She showed us the way. Make sure you thank her for us, son.

TADASHI: Uh-huh.

To Neighbor

…Thanks.

NEIGHBOR: Yup. Bye then.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Thank you so much.

Pulling a Tupperware container full of pickles from her bag.

 Please. Homemade pickles.

TADASHI: Enough already.

NEIGHBOR: Okay. …Thank you.

Neighbor exits.

Brother and Sister decide on their spot, lifting the sheet to create walls, forming their own room. Within it, they begin to unpack their bags.

MAN: I need a signature here.

TADASHI: (Signing) As always, sorry for the trouble.

MAN: Delivered promptly, and safely.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: I knew you were good, but I have to say I really am impressed. I’ve heard this place is extremely fashionable. I wish your father could see it. Really. Let’s take a photograph, okay? I want to show my neighbors.

TADASHI: Please stop. You’re embarrassing me.

Mother hands a digital camera to Man.

MAN: Ready?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Thank you. They were all amazed when I told them that you’d created your own nation. “So impressive.” “So wonderful.”

MAN: Smile. There! Say cheese!

Man takes a photograph.

Tadashi’s Mother and Tadashi freeze in place like in a photographic image.

MAN: A photo of a mother and a son. That image – it’s so ordinary. Mother is smiling; the son looks uncomfortable.

Man covers Tadashi’s Mother’s eyes to create a black line through the photograph that will obscure her identity.

MAN: The son waves a knife around on a packed commuter train and kills five. It happens in a matter of seconds, and after killing the five, he drops the knife. Why five? “Because my name is Tadashi. Five strokes – the perfect number,” he says. Later, the mother climbs a mountain and hangs herself from a tree limb. This is a story.

Man covers the son’s eyes in the same manner.

MAN: Or, the mother, worn out from nursing her bedridden son, loses hope for the future, kills him and lies by his side, keeping him company. “Both ideograms, justice and life, are five stroke characters. Therefore, Tadashi is living,” the mother says. This is a story.

Man points at both Tadashi’s Mother and Tadashi.

MAN: A typical mother and son. They are everywhere. They’re not in any way special. I am a conduit. I know these things. These ordinary stories. I deliver them. Things. Words. Those who have lost their place. Those old folks who wander away, out onto the streets. I deliver them to where they belong. I am a conduit.

Man exits.

Tadashi slowly enters, holding a plate with a single large chunk of tofu on it. Around him, Brother, Sister, and Tadashi’s Mother gather. It looks like a solemn ritual.

TADASHI: Now we begin.

Tadashi bows. The others imitate him and bow.

TADASHI: Here commences the ritual wherein you all become subjects of this sovereign nation.

Tadashi passes around the tofu, from which he has already taken a bite. Each takes a small bite off the big piece.

TADASHI: Yea-taru! Yea-taru! Yeeeaaa-taru!

Tadashi signals to the others to follow his example.

ALL: (In unison with Tadashi.Yea-taru! Yea-taru! Yeeeaaa-taru!

Tadashi takes another bite of the tofu and passes it around. This time, it’s a large, ferocious bite. Each imitates.

SISTER: (Feeling something strange in her mouth.) Hm?

Sister removes a cicada from her mouth.

TADASHI: You win! You’re the winner!

SISTER: Huh?

BROTHER: A cicada?

SISTER: Yeah.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Yesyes. A cicada is an amazing thing. It’s a deity.

BROTHER: What do you mean by that?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Back home, cicadas are deities.

To Tadashi

Right?

TADASHI: Yeeeaaa-taru!

TADASHI’S MOTHER: In my hometown, you hide the cicada inside a single piece of inari-sushi. (Starts chanting.Ooga booga booga aahhh, ooga booga booga baahhh… We pass the cicada around from mouth to mouth. The person to whom you pass the cicada will become your keeper.

SISTER: Huh? What do you mean by keeper?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Never mind. There, put it in your mouth.

SISTER: Okay.

Sister places the cicada between her teeth.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Chanting and clapping her hands.Ooga booga booga aahhh, ooga booga booga baahhh

Tadashi and Brother join the chanting and clap their hands.

Sister, not knowing what to do, approaches Brother.

Tadashi waits right next to Brother, opening his mouth wide.

Brother imitates Tadashi.

Tadashi interferes with Brother, using his hands.

Brother interferes with Tadashi, imitating Tadashi.

Tadashi emits a queer screech.

It sounds like some sort of animal wooing ritual.

Brother cannot bring himself to go this far with the imitation.

Sister, no longer having a choice, transfers the cicada to Tadashi’s mouth.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Bingo!

TADASHI: (Mumbling with his mouth full.Yeeeaaaa-taru!

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Applauding.) Yesyes, wonderful!

BROTHER AND SISTER: (Imitating Tadashi.Yeeeaaaa-taru!

MAN: (From offstage.) Excooose me!

Man enters holding a cardboard box.

MAN: I’ll just need your signature here, please.

TADASHI: Thank you for your trouble.

He signs as if signing a treaty.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Oh, hello there. Would you like some of my homemade pickles for the road?

MAN: No, thank you.

Tadashi passes the cicada in his mouth to Brother.

BROTHER: Hey, he gave it to me.

To Sister

Want it?

SISTER: No thanks.

BROTHER: (Referring to the cicada.) Your loss.

Man puts the box down.

MAN: Thank you.

Man exits.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: What have you got there?

TADASHI: Something important.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Oh really? May I open it?

TADASHI: Nay-falu! Nay-falu! The party’s over, over!

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Hog.

BROTHER: (To Tadashi and Tadashi’s Mother.) Now now.

To all

We should be going.

SISTER: Good-bye.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: See you later.

Brother and Sister return to their spot.

Mother secures a spot for herself and arranges the space with a memorial tablet, a dinner set, knitting tools and other items.

Night comes on, quickly, before anyone knows it. Each prepares for bedtime, making the bed, etc.

Tadashi carries his cardboard box to the corner, and opens it. It’s filled with small stuffed animals.

TADASHI: (Pulling out the stuffed animals.) Welcome… Great to see you, was it cramped in there? …okay, I see… yesyes, one by one please, one at a time… don’t rush… no fighting, no fighting… I hope you can get along well with the old-timers, and the big people too. I hope so, if you please.

From between the folds of the sheet, Tadashi pulls out numerous action figures, and characters of all sorts.

TADASHI: We will create a kingdom where everyone will cooperate and live joyfully and happily ever after, won’t we? Won’t we?

Loud rock music is heard from the adjacent apartment.

 TADASHI: Oh man!

Brother and Sister chat behind the wall made from the sheet. Sister switches on a lamp.

Their silhouettes, through the sheet, are clearly visible to Tadashi.

BROTHER: Can’t sleep?

SISTER: No. I’ve got ringing in my ears. This ringing, like there are people yelling at me.

BROTHER: It’s all in your head. Think of it as the sound of waves. There, see?

Brother plays the sound of waves.

Isn’t that nice?

SISTER: Yeah. But it’s fake.

BROTHER: Well, sure maybe.

SISTER: Well, yeah.

BROTHER: So… what about putting it out of your mind altogether?

SISTER: I wish I could!

BROTHER: So I’ll keep repeating your name then. So you can fall asleep.

SISTER: Really? You’ll say Sakiko?

BROTHER: No, Sakippe. That’s what I’ve always called you.

SISTER: Good night.

Sister lies down.

BROTHER: Sakippe… Sakippe…

SISTER: …I just had a dream. You and I are traveling together. We arrive at a small island on a boat, and there we live happily ever after, just the two of us.

BROTHER: We fish, we nap…

SISTER: Yeah… Hey, can I call you Antonius?

BROTHER: Yeah, sure.

SISTER: Okay. Antonius! My dear Antonius!

BROTHER: Look.

Pointing at the sheet

There we are.

SISTER: Yes indeed.

BROTHER: We are mirages and those are our true selves, I’m sure of it.

Sister tries to touch Brother.

BROTHER: Don’t touch! We made a pact.

SISTER: But aren’t we mirages? So it’s okay. See? Antonius.

BROTHER: Yeah, Sakippe. It’s all a mirage…

The image of the two caressing each other gets projected onto the sheet.

The two say each other’s names.

Tadashi shoves his hand inside his pants and rubs hard.

Tadashi’s Mother observes Tadashi through a pair of opera glasses.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Tadashi.

TADASHI: Huh?

Tadashi stops what he’s doing and turns his back to her.

Tadashi’s Mother approaches Tadashi.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Do you need any help?

TADASHI: (Pretending to be half-asleep.) Help with what? I’m sleeping.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: I understand. Mommy understands. Let me help you.

Squeezing her breasts

Wanna suck?

TADASHI: 

Tadashi moves away from Tadashi’s Mother.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Don’t be shy. You’ve been so serious-minded, so committed to improving the world, that you haven’t had time to get to know girls. Mommy understands.

TADASHI: …Where have you been?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: All over. The guide brought me many places.

TADASHI: Doesn’t he already have enough deliveries to make? Anyway, don’t go far. It’s not safe.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Yesyes, yesyes.

TADASHI: …Do you really?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Huh?

TADASHI: Do you really understand? How much thinking I’ve been doing for the world, how much for the earth, and for the universe, do you understand how much thinking I do?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Yes, I understand.

TADASHI: Then do something about it.

Mother reaches down toward Tadashi’s groin.

TADASHI: (Knocking her hand away.) Not that! Not from an old hag like you!

TADASHI’S MOTHER: But you used to do this all the time, right?

TADASHI: …I’m not what I was any more.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: I understand. Well then, what can I do for you?

TADASHI: A king needs a queen, does he not?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Yeah.

TADASHI: Well then, you could provide a candidate?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: From where?

TADASHI: Beats me.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: How about the young lady next door?

TADASHI: She’s no good. She’s an idiot. Isn’t there someone else?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Really? …Ummm…

TADASHI: For example, like maybe… that girl.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: She’s no good.

TADASHI: Why not?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Because she’s got a thing with her brother.

TADASHI: Well, but that’s impure! It’s not how it’s supposed to be, now is it?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: I would have to say that the young lady next door is a better choice. She’s straightforward.

TADASHI: No way!

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Really? But those two have all sorts of problems, don’t you think?

TADASHI: Nevertheless they are my subjects. It’s my duty as the king to provide instruction for them.

Tadashi leaves his spot and wraps himself with the sheet.

His body is cocooned, like a pupa.

Neighbor enters wearing headphones and carrying a clothesline, and some laundry. She kicks at the sheet and reveals some of the floor.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Oh, hello there.

NEIGHBOR: (Referring to the sheet.) Hey, watch it.  The thing’s spilling over.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Sorry. Well, I owe you a thank you.

NEIGHBOR: Huh?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: The sound. You’ve turned it down.

NEIGHBOR: Oh. Well all you have to do is ask and I’ll gladly stop. But he never says a word, that little fuzz-face.

Neighbor stretches out the clothesline and hangs her laundry.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: He’s a little shy. Pardon me, but do you mind if I make use of that spot right next to you?

NEIGHBOR: Go right ahead.

Tadashi’s Mother, standing next to Neighbor, hangs some daikon radish from the clothesline.

NEIGHBOR: By the way, your pickles the other day were delicious.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Oh yeah? I’ll bring you some more right now.

NEIGHBOR: No, no, that’s okay. Next time. We’re neighbors after all.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Oh, okay.

She looks at the anime towel Neighbor is hanging to dry.

How’s your child?

NEIGHBOR: Hmm? … Fine, thanks.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Glad to hear it. What’s his name again?

NEIGHBOR: …Sonny. It’s about time you remembered that. Sonny, like the sun. A boy.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: What a nice name.

NEIGHBOR: But he’s hypersensitive to the sun, so he doesn’t go out much. He’s Sonny, but shady. He’s taken after me. I don’t like the sun, either.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: I see.

NEIGHBOR: (Calling stage left.) Don’t get carried away or you’ll hurt yourself. That’s enough!

To Tadashi’s Mother

He never listens to me.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Great to be full of beans.

NEIGHBOR: But only in the shade.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: My son never listens to me either.

NEIGHBOR: Yeah, he’s stubborn.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: I wish he had someone like you on his side. Someone who could give him a good talking to.

NEIGHBOR: But I do. He’s fun to tease.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: No, I mean, well… what about as a wife?

NEIGHBOR: A wife?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Yesyes…

NEIGHBOR: 

TADASHI’S MOTHER: I’ll help you with whatever you need, and take care of your child, and you can eat tons of pickles.

NEIGHBOR: No, no, no.

Neighbor exits.

Tadashi’s Mother takes out the pedometer and wraps it around her head.

Then she starts nodding her head.

Postcards from different places are projected onto the screen.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Still nodding her head.) …Beijing… Moscow, Paris, Rome, Berlin, and then Africa, what’s in Africa…? How far will I get today? …Yesyes, there, that’s good. I’ve done my best. That’s enough for today. Yesyes, good job.

Neighbor enters with a significant accumulation of Tupperware.

NEIGHBOR

I thought you might want these containers back. I’ve had them for a while. Thanks.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Oh my.

NEIGHBOR: (Calling offstage.) Sonny! Cut that out already!

Neighbor exits.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: …Indeed, indeed, yesyes, I see… Father, I’ve done my best for today. Thank you for watching over a big nitwit like me.

Sister attempts to enter from behind the “sheet wall.” But she cannot move, as her Brother won’t let go of her hand.

SISTER: Let me go.

BROTHER: You’re going? Are you really going?

SISTER: I am.

BROTHER: You’re gonna turn your back on your brother and go?

SISTER: What can I do? I was summoned.

BROTHER: Stay a little longer. I’m about to have a fit.

SISTER: You’ll be all right.

BROTHER: No, this is different. This one’s bigger than ever.

SISTER: Okay then, I’ll wrap you up a little tighter.

BROTHER: Would you?

Sister wraps up Brother’s body like a mummy in several layers of the sheet.

Tadashi’s Mother stops nodding her head.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Looking at the pedometer.) Five thousand. Still more to go. But let’s call it a day! …

Tadashi’s Mother returns to her spot, presses her hands together in prayer toward the memorial tablet, and rolls herself up in the sheet, wrapping herself as if she were covering herself with a comforter.

Sister finishes wrapping Brother.

SISTER: Now you’ll be okay.

BROTHER: Thank you. I feel better, sort of.

SISTER: See you.

BROTHER: Oh!

SISTER: What?

BROTHER: My face! My face is exposed! This won’t do!

SISTER: You’ll be all right.

BROTHER: Hey! Don’t you remember what we came here for?

SISTER: Yes, I do.

BROTHER: No, you don’t.

SISTER: It’s because you were tempted to kill someone, isn’t that it?

BROTHER: You make me sound like some kind of psycho.

SISTER: Aren’t you?

BROTHER: I’m not. Because if someone tries to kill me, then I have no choice but to kill that someone, like it or not.

SISTER: So it’s self-defense.

BROTHER: Exactly. But in my case, being afraid that some passerby on the street might attack me, I’ve kept a knife in hand, in my pocket, and so what they’re saying is that it’s not necessarily self-defense.

SISTER: Poor Brother.

BROTHER: Yeah. I think I’ll be all right here because there are so few people around. But so, anyway, could you stick a picture or something on my face so people can’t tell who I am?

SISTER: Yup, sure thing.

Sister pulls out a sketchbook and searches for a drawing.

SISTER: What kind do you want?

BROTHER: Anything will do.

SISTER: How about a flower?

BROTHER: Oh yeah, that’ll do.

Sister sticks the drawing of a flower on Brother’s face.

Brother now resembles a cloth-wrapped totem pole.

BROTHER: Thank you.

SISTER: I’m going now.

BROTHER: Take care. I love you.

SISTER: I love you too.

Sister exits.

Man enters with a fishing rod.

The sound of rolling waves.

Man takes a stepladder out from beneath the sheet and sits on its top step.

Then he attaches some bait to the tip of the rod and casts it onto the sheet.

The rugged surface of the sheet may look like swelling waves.

MAN: To travel the world is to taste it. There are things I’ve learned from these tastings. Delicacies are rarely simple. Some may be chewy, while others smell pungent; some may be bitter, spicy, and sweet – all at once. Life has many flavors. Sour, sweet, bitter, pungent – all must be tasted – which indeed gets right to the point. To fully appreciate delicacy requires therefore an accumulation of experience: it is an acquired taste. Without that experience, one is in no position to truly savor.

Man reels in his fishing rod.

MAN: It’s big! I’ve caught the big one!

The hook pulls up and raises the sheet.

The raised sheet takes a human shape. A face biting the hook in her mouth peeks out from the sheet. It’s Tadashi’s Mother.

MAN: Lo and Behold! A delicacy! I’ve caught a rare delicacy!

Tadashi’s Mother wiggles under the sheet for a while before becoming still.

Man smooths the sheet over Tadashi’s Mother so that the contours of her body may be seen.

Man puts the rod away, comes down from the stepladder, and exits with Tadashi’s mother.

The sound of waves dissipates.

Tadashi enters, wearing a long beard shaped like a necktie.

He has a radio-controlled miniature helicopter with him.

Sister enters.

 TADASHI: Hello. Sorry for calling on such short notice.

SISTER: No worries. Well…

TADASHI: Yes?

SISTER: Your beard, it’s awesome.

TADASHI: (Fidgeting.) Huh? Is it? …I see… Indeed…

SISTER: It’s impressive.

TADASHI: (Even more fidgety.) Oh really? …Can’t tell, well, for myself, I mean, on my own. Well, shall we go?

SISTER: Where are we going?

TADASHI: Somewhere I’ve been wanting to show you.

SISTER: Okay.

TADASHI: So, come on board. Careful now.

SISTER: Sure.

Tadashi flies the radio-controlled helicopter.

The rugged surface of the sheet and human shapes wrapped in the sheet resemble the surface of the earth.

Is it a desert here, perhaps?

TADASHI: See, you can see the whole place from here.

SISTER: Yes.

TADASHI: That’s the Furukawa River. As you can see, it’s run dry. And that’s Asanuma Marsh. It’s a new place.

SISTER: Did you make it for me?

TADASHI: 

SISTER: That was nice of you.

TADASHI: This nation still relies upon Japan for many things, such as electricity and water. I hope we can work together to make this nation truly self-sufficient so we may live happily ever after.

Tadashi controls the helicopter and leads Sister to a place covered with cloth that looks like a hill.

TADASHI: About this place.

Tadashi flips up the sheet that covers the hill, exposing an area crammed with heaps of stuffed animals and action figures, figures that react to sound, toys that flick and move about.

SISTER: Wow, awesome.

TADASHI: “Friendship Heights” is its name. I’ve always wanted to bring you here.

SISTER: Thank you so much… I must say, Mr. Tadashi, you are rather adorable.

TADASHI: Adorable? …Hey, you’re teasing me.

SISTER: No, I’m not.

TADASHI: Really? …So then…

Tadashi grabs a rope and tries to bind Sister.

SISTER: What are you-

Tadashi binds Sister with the rope and presses “pause” on her, as if she were a doll.

SISTER: Stop!

TADASHI: Don’t move!

Sister resists, throwing some stuffed animals at Tadashi.

TADASHI: Heeyyy! What the hell are you doing!

SISTER: What about you?

TADASHI: This is a violation!

SISTER: I’m the one getting violated here!

TADASHI: Shut your face! Go away.

SISTER: Oh I will.

Sister exits.

Tadashi remains, dumbfounded. After a while, he rearranges the stuffed animals neatly. Tadashi pulls the animals close to him and goes to sleep, hugging them tight.

TADASHI: Come closer, all of you. You guys are my friends. You won’t leave me, will you… I’ll never leave you guys…

Tadashi fumbles with some stuffed animals that squeak.

Animals meow, moo, and baa. Tadashi plays them as if he were a conductor of an orchestra.

Neighbor enters.

Tadashi, flustered, hurriedly hides the animals and then hides himself underneath the sheet as well.

NEIGHBOR: Hey! Excuse me! …Is anyone here? …Hey!

Neighbor flips up different parts of the sheet, as if she’s looking for something.

NEIGHBOR: Hey, have you seen my boy Sonny? …Hello! Is anyone here?

Neighbor notices Brother standing frozen like a totem pole.

NEIGHBOR: Hey, have you seen my boy Sonny? He’s not around.

BROTHER: 

NEIGHBOR: Hey!

Neighbor rips off the drawing pasted on Brother’s face.

BROTHER: Whoa!

NEIGHBOR: What the hell are you up to?

BROTHER: Ughhh… nothing special.

NEIGHBOR: Have you seen my boy Sonny around?

BROTHER: …No, I haven’t.

NEIGHBOR: Uh, okay.

BROTHER: I’m sorry.

NEIGHBOR: Huh?

BROTHER: Have I done something wrong?

NEIGHBOR: What do you mean?

BROTHER: I passed out for a while.

NEIGHBOR: Have you done something?

BROTHER: No.

NEIGHBOR: You did something. Tell me.

BROTHER: No, I mean, how could I, all wrapped up like this?

NEIGHBOR: You’ve got to tell me.

BROTHER: I can’t… But in any case you better not get near me.

NEIGHBOR: How come?

BROTHER: I’m afraid I might do some harm.

NEIGHBOR: Harm?

BROTHER: Yes.

NEIGHBOR: …What have you done to Sonny?

BROTHER: Nothing, no.

NEIGHBOR: What the hell have you done?

BROTHER: I’ll kill you! Here’s a knife! See, I’ve got a knife now. I’ll slash through and stab you, right in the heart!

NEIGHBOR: What have you done to Sonny?

BROTHER: Like I’ve been telling you, I don’t know! …Who the hell is Sonny anyway?

NEIGHBOR: …He’s my son. Sonny.

BROTHER: Oh. Would you be so kind as to tell me what he’s like?

NEIGHBOR: He’s not your average kid.

BROTHER: Meaning?

NEIGHBOR: He molts. The more he molts, the stronger he becomes. He was a human kid before, but he’s shed so much old skin that by now he must’ve evolved into something altogether new.

BROTHER: If he’s not human, then what is he?

NEIGHBOR: Don’t know. There’s no name for it yet. He’s shed so much skin, he’s evolved too far too fast. He’s gotten beyond terms like male or female or human. He’s ahead of us all.

BROTHER: You have a child like that?

NEIGHBOR: I did. Not any more.

BROTHER: Oh my god, I wish I could’ve been around someone like that.

NEIGHBOR: Let it go already. And I’ll let go too. I believe he’s gone somewhere really far away.

BROTHER: We’ll look for him.

NEIGHBOR: I’m past it now.

BROTHER: But wait. What a wonderful son you have! And how lonely he must be. We absolutely must go find him.

NEIGHBOR: Don’t worry about Sonny. He’s ahead of us all. The problem is (Pointing at herself) …here… (Removing the dry clothes from the clothesline.) How much more time can I spend hanging laundry? Well? Seems like it’s all I do. Wake up, do the laundry, go to work, come home and do more laundry, and then still more before going to bed… But you know, without Sonny around, I don’t have to do so much laundry, now do I? How about that?

BROTHER: Would you like to… adopt me?

NEIGHBOR: Huh? What do you mean?

BROTHER: I meant what I said. What do you say? Would you make me Second Sonny, if you please?

NEIGHBOR: 

BROTHER: I’m afraid I might kill someone if I remain as is.

NEIGHBOR: But you haven’t killed anyone yet, have you?

BROTHER: No.

NEIGHBOR: So it’s okay.

BROTHER: But I’m not sure anymore. I’m afraid I might have done something without knowing it. So I’m shedding my old clothes. (As if making a confession of his love.) …Will you… will you launder my new clothes?

NEIGHBOR: … (Slowly caressing Brother’s face.) Sonny, where have you been?

BROTHER: Uh, yes.

NEIGHBOR: Ready?

Neighbor spins Brother.

Brother emerges from the sheet like an insect out of a cocoon.

Neighbor and Brother exit.

Man, Tadashi’s Mother and Tadashi enter.

MAN: …Well, it certainly is rather unexpected, like a kind of accident, right?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Hm? Uh-huh.

MAN: (To Tadashi’s Mother.) Look. There’s something.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Hmm?

MAN: Hold on.

Man removes an eyelash from Tadashi’s Mother’s cheek.

MAN: Looks tasty.

He eats the eyelash.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: No!

MAN: (Chuckling.) …Go ahead and tell him.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Me? No, it’s too embarrassing!

TADASHI: 

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Okay, then. Well, he and I are going to get married, more or less.

MAN: More or less?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Sorry, sorry. That’s not what I meant!

MAN: I’m a little hurt.

TADASHI: 

TADASHI’S MOTHER: What I’m trying to say is that I’ve decided to take this opportunity to finally let go of my son.

Referring to Man

To have and to hold…

TADASHI: (To Man.) …Please don’t take her seriously. She’s getting totally senile…

MAN: Tadashi, my dear son, Tadashi.

TADASHI: I’m no son of yours!

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Stop it!

TADASHI: … (To Tadashi’s Mother.) You haven’t forgotten about finding a queen for me, have you?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Of course not. But I haven’t come across anyone nice.

TADASHI: 

TADASHI’S MOTHER: You’ve been looking around for Miss Right yourself, haven’t you?

TADASHI: (To man) …Don’t make her start thinking that she’s special. As for you, she’d take any guy with a pulse.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: He hasn’t been able to let go of me.

MAN: Tadashi. This is for you. You like this kind of stuff, don’t you?

Man pulls a stuffed animal out of his backpack and throws it toward Tadashi.

TADASHI: 

MAN: If you don’t like it, just throw it away.

TADASHI: You know what they called me in school? “The son of the whiteface whore.”
Into the love shack of the whiteface whore / someone new every day / teachers and dads – the
head of the PTA / from the janitor to the principal / fellow travelers all – brothers in arms
—That’s what they would chant right in front of me.

Tadashi’s Mother drags the sheet and turns it over. Man helps her.

TADASHI: Stop! This is my kingdom!

TADASHI’S MOTHER: …Ha! It’s a Tinkertoy kingdom. I could squash it any time.

MAN: (As if drawing in a fishing net.) It’s huge, so huge! …

Looking at Tadashi

Oh no, it’s one of those. Another lousy cut of fish. Too dry for grilling, too thick for stew, half-rancid – tastes like sand, tastes like shit!

Tadashi gets snapped away from the sheet.

Man and Tadashi’s Mother move away, open the parasol, open their basket and sit down. As if they’ve come to a picnic.

Sister enters with a cell phone.

SISTER: Hello. Helloooo.

Listless, Tadashi picks up his phone and puts it to his ear.

TADASHI: Hello.

SISTER: It’s me.

TADASHI: Weren’t you leaving?

SISTER: I’ve decided not to. Nowhere else to go… Is it a good time to talk?

TADASHI: No, not really.

SISTER: Oh well. I’ll tell you anyway. I’ve been thinking about it, and I believe I’d like to go out with you.

TADASHI: Huh?

SISTER: You’re not into it?

TADASHI: Huh? Well yeah, but is it okay with you?

SISTER: Yes, it is.

TADASHI: You’re okay with the prospect of becoming a queen?

SISTER: … Yes.

TADASHI: For sure? Really?

SISTER: Yes.

TADASHI: Really really?

SISTER: Yes…

Sister starts sobbing.

TADASHI: Why? Why are you crying?

SISTER: My brother’s gone.

TADASHI: Really? Where to?

SISTER: I don’t know. He said he’s getting adopted by the lady next door. He’s going to take the place of her son.

TADASHI: What? That dragon next door has no son.

SISTER: Huh? But…

TADASHI: I’ve never seen one.

SISTER: Well… There was a note. It said, “Do not search for me. I shall return once I’ve shed my old skin.”

TADASHI: I see. So if he’s coming back sometime…

SISTER: But what shall I do till then? We’ve been one, the two of us together. We were going to live in the shadows, picking each other’s scabs and licking the wounds.

TADASHI: If only I could be your pillar…

SISTER: You can’t. But… yes, I’ll be with you.

TADASHI: I don’t want you to force yourself…

SISTER: But, yes, I will force myself. You will marry me, and I will serve you like a slave.

TADASHI: I won’t treat you like that.

SISTER: I know you will. And that’s okay. Showered with curses, and treated like a doll, I’ll have no choice but to become numb, and paralyzed.

TADASHI: What the hell do you think I am?

SISTER: Oops? Did I make you mad?

TADASHI: Stop playing!

SISTER: Yes. I will date you, and fuel your fire. I will never, ever open my heart. Because my heart belongs to my Brother, and my Brother alone.

TADASHI: Then I can’t be with you.

SISTER: Yes, you can. Because we are very much alike.

TADASHI: In what way?

SISTER: We cannot accept reality.

TADASHI: I’m different than you.

SISTER: You’re no different. So, why, for goodness sake, shouldn’t we live together pretending to accept reality?

TADASHI: 

SISTER: We’ll delude ourselves. Some things last longer, thanks to delusion. I’m thinking of finding the intention to get ready to begin to prepare myself to make every effort to like you. You should do the same.

TADASHI: 

SISTER: Good night!

Sister exits.

Tadashi throws away his phone. Then he hugs his stuffed animals and heads to “Friendship Heights.”

TADASHI: (Fondling an animal that makes sounds.) … (Tadashi plays some heroic music.)

TADASHI: Okay, everyone, keep calm and listen up. This nation is on the precipice of a fateful crisis… We face powerful threats from the outside and aggressive maneuvers by insurgents, not to mention tensions with the neighboring country. We need to make the first move to overcome this crisis. Do you have any good ideas? …

He picks up a stuffed animal.

What about you? …

He picks up an action figure.

Or you? …Even the smallest idea is welcome… Why don’t you say something?

Tadashi peels off his clothes.

Let me ask you one question. Do you see the emperor’s new clothes? …Let me ask it once again. Do you see the emperor’s new clothes? …Answer me! …Don’t you see the emperor’s new clothes?

Tadashi interrogates the stuffed animals, picking them up one by one.

You beasts, you’re making a fool of me! Go to hell! Get lost!

Tadashi stomps on the stuffed animals, tearing off their heads and limbs.

Man enters holding the suitcase Brother used to have.

Tadashi’s Mother also enters.

MAN: Excooose me! Delivery. Oh, hello.

TADASHI: Whoooaaaa!

Tadashi wraps himself in the sheet.

MAN: Miss Asanuma.

SISTER: Yes.

MAN: It’s for you. I need your signature here.

Sister signs the paper and receives the suitcase.

Thank you.

Sister opens Brother’s suitcase. Inside she finds the clothes he had worn and a knife.

SISTER: Brother.

Sister holds Brother’s clothes tightly and puts them on.

MAN: 

To Tadashi’s Mother

Now, shall we go?

Tadashi’s Mother stands up, showing off her rear end, wrapped in the sheet like a bride in a wedding dress.

TADASHI: Mom.

Tadashi gropes for the back of the sheet and slips himself inside Tadashi’s Mother’s dress.

MAN: A murder-suicide of a mother and a son. By day, the mother worked in a supermarket, standing behind the register. By night, the red light district, standing on the corner. She would never let her son near liquor or the betting table or women. Purity, honesty and beauty—that was her parental philosophy. This is a story. A story someone told about someone else.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: …Oh… yes… good boy. That’s a good boy. Never ever doubt.

Rubbing her lower abdomen

This has been your kingdom from the beginning.

Man exits.

Sister wallows about tightly hugging herself while dressed in her Brother’s clothes.

Tadashi emerges from the sheet between his mother’s legs. Out pops his head.

TADASHI: Phew! …Help! I’m suffocating!

SISTER: Oh hey. What are you doing?

TADASHI: I’m getting sucked in!

SISTER: Will you be with me?

TADASHI: Huh? Hold on, this is not the moment.

SISTER: Will you marry me?

Tightly hugging herself while dressed in her Brother’s clothes

I’m this close to losing it.

TADASHI: …Okay. We’ll get married. We’ll have a national ceremony for our wedding…

He faints.

SISTER: Thank you!

Sister flips up the sheet that is wrapped around Tadashi’s

Mother, as if it were a fancy dress, and drags out Tadashi.

Tadashi’s Mother turns around. Her face is painted white.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Tadashi! Father’s dead! What shall we do?

TADASHI: (As if he were talking in his sleep.) Mom! Mom!

SISTER: Are you all right?

TADASHI: …Thanks. Did you just say my name?

SISTER: Uh-uh.

TADASHI: Oh, I see.

SISTER: Tadashi.

TADASHI: Oh. I haven’t asked your name yet, have I?

SISTER: Sakiko. A child in bloom.

TADASHI: A good name.

SISTER: So is Tadashi.

TADASHI: Thanks.

Tadashi plays some music.

SISTER: (Pulling a tiara out of her pocket and putting it on her head.) Princess Sakiko. On her way to an unhappy marriage. All she has are the sweet memories of her days with Antonius…

The wedding begins.

Tadashi’s Mother is acting senile.

Tadashi and Sister turn to each other.

TADASHI: Will you pledge your everlasting love?

SISTER: …Yes.

Tadashi urges Sister to say the same.

SISTER: Will you pledge your everlasting love?

TADASHI: Yes… Now, I may kiss the bride…

Tadashi places his hands on Sister’s neck and slowly strangles her. Sister, struggling, cannot get free.

SISTER: Ugh!

TADASHI: …Now you’re just like the rest of them.

SISTER: …No, I’m not!

TADASHI: …You’ll be all right.

Tadashi’s Mother suddenly wedges herself between the two.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Father! Father!

TADASHI: (Loosening his grip.) Huh?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Who’s that woman?

TADASHI: I’m not Father. I’m Tadashi!

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Tadashi? …

Nodding

Oh, I see… So, Tadashi.

TADASHI: (To his Mother.) What?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: He’s gone.

TADASHI: Huh?

TADASHI’S MOTHER: Father’s gone.

TADASHI: 

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Reading a note.) “I’m setting out on a journey. All I have are the sweet memories of my days with you.” …What’s this?

TADASHI: Who knows. Dad’s dead – you know that!

Tadashi’s Mother starts to walk away.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: He didn’t seem like that kind of person.

TADASHI: Where are you going? Don’t go too far. Be careful!

TADASHI’S MOTHER: But we’ve talked about the things we’re gonna do together…

Neighbor and Brother enter.

NEIGHBOR: Sonny! Come this way!

BROTHER: Yeeesss!

Brother and Neighbor lift the sheet from below.

Brother sets up the stepladder, steps on it, and climbs the ladder holding the sheet high above him.

Right between Tadashi and Sister, the sheet heaves up and the two tumble down the slope of the sheet.

Sister pulls a knife out of her Brother’s nearby suitcase and hides it on her person.

BROTHER: How’s this?

NEIGHBOR: Higher. Go higher!

Brother climbs further up the stepladder.

BROTHER: Or here?

NEIGHBOR: Yeah, okay. This’ll be our new home. How do you feel?

Neighbor stretches the clothesline from the stepladder and hangs the laundry.

 BROTHER: I couldn’t be better. Now I’m neither a man nor a human being. That’s right, I’m the keeper. Sakippe, do you know where your brother is? Right below you. Underground. Sonny doesn’t get along with the sun, so here we are. We’ll live here for years and years, decades, no, for centuries, and some day, I’ll shed this skin and fly out into the sky. Until that day, your Brother remains a pillar to support the earth you stand on. I’ll remain here thinking of you.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: (Wearing the sunglasses and the pedometer, observing the uneven lumps of the sheet.) There, that’s Diamond Head, that’s Waikiki Beach… we have a good view here…

TADASHI: (To Sister) Hey, where are you?

SISTER: (To Tadashi) I’m here. You kissed me all wrong… Now it’s my turn.

TADASHI: It’s the kiss for forever.

SISTER: (Holding up the knife.) Yes, the battle begins… for forever…

Tadashi and Sister, each from either side climbs step by step up the hill covered with the sheet.

A music box chimes in and everyone’s movements turn mechanical.

Man enters.

MAN: Please take a look. This display is said to represent the origin of this land.

TADASHI’S MOTHER: 

Moving like a machine

Where am I right now?

MAN: …Everywhere.

Man exits.

Everyone on stage remains in their places and repeats movements like those of mechanical dolls.

Gradually their movements become confused, their bodies crooked and their footing unsure, but they do not cease their movements. Until they crumble to dust.

Black out.

 The End

 

 

 

One thought on “Proud Son

  1. Pingback: Editor’s Note 5.4 | The Mercurian

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