Stephen Earnhart’s stage adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s enigmatic (and sometimes frustratingly surreal) 1995 novel The Windup Bird Chronicle has been in the works for close to six years now (Earnhart first traveled to Japan to speak to Murakami in 2004), and is set to officially make its world premiere at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in March of 2011.
Earnhart, a former producer at Miramax, has taken his time with the project, using numerous workshops, technological seminars, and an Edward Albee Playwrighting Residency to get his theater chops back up to snuff (he was a Shakespearean actor in college). Though the world premiere is not exactly around the corner, a sneak peak (and NYC premiere) of this multi-media experience is happening at the Ohio Theater through January 30. Tickets were very tough to come by and finally given with this caveat: No critic is permitted to review the play in any way whatsoever. So…
As a result, we’re not allowed to say things like: The essential elements of Murakami’s book were physically captured in a way that created something new and different from the book while retaining the beautiful metaphorical representations that brought the author such acclaim; or that fans of the writer will recognize the original text in this adaptation, but also be pleasantly surprised.
And we most certainly cannot say that the added element of a live sound effects artist working in the foreground of the action gave the whole production a sense of depth and simultaneous transparency that made video, puppet, and dance elements within the main play seem less a superfluous exploration of forms and more a necessity for this type of lofty intellectual experiment. And this, above all else, ist verboten: Such an ambitious undertaking as adapting a Murakami novel for the stage and maintaining a narrative without relying strictly on experimental dance or avant garde puppetry, can probably only be pulled off by a production with such a diverse portfolio of media employed successfully and without feeling cluttered or overwrought.
But since we can’t say any of that you’ll just have to wait until next year and see it for yourself, and we most definitely recommend that you do.
(photo credit: Ralph Ford)