We meet the tortoise of the title only once—and she’s on her back (Becca Lewis cleverly supported by a shelf of bent backs). What makes SONIC LIFE OF A GIANT TORTOISE (@ Apollinaire Theatre through March 13th) utterly disarming is director Danielle Fauteux Jacques’ animated imagery and her acute sense of whimsy. Toshiki Okada’s impressionistic tone poem centers on the desperate desire “to live more fully.” (Okada is renown in Japan for articulating the collective angst of her generation.)
Her characters strain under “the banality of day to day existence,” planted in front of their computers. For all they know, someone may be watching them “through their screens.” (The joke is, we are watching them!) More than one actor shares a character so (s)he (Lewis/Trip Venturella) tells us in no uncertain terms that “(s)he’s not living like (s)he should be.” The characters riff on loneliness and death, while they settle for partners with whom they share very little. He (the droll Quentin James) likes staying home. She (a deadpan Lewis) wants to travel.
Okada skillfully works Japanese myth into their humdrum lives so that a trip across town involves a hundred years, just like the ancient tale of the fisherman who rescued a turtle/princess and lived with her without realizing eons had passed. Jacques mines gentle humor from the characters’ earnest but failed attempts to alter their fate. She gets lots of laughs from their recreation, namely their disco dancing, some of which lights them up in time with the music. Deniz Khateri, Paola Ferrer and James are hilarious ducking and sliding across the dance floor. The whole effort lasts only an hour by the human clock but in tortoise time, who knows!