Based on the novel by Yukio Mishima, this production was staged ingeniously at the Rose Theater on Thursday when I saw it, but it left me cold. It was too easy to dismiss Mizoguchi's despair as adolescent angst, his obsession with the Golden Pavilion as a son's unconsolable grief for his dead father. When he set fire to the Temple, his motive was not complex but obscure. When he repeated "I want to live" at the end of the play, one was tempted to retort, "Why don't you?"
Some of the problem lay with the actor, Go Morita, a member of a popular Japanese boy band called V6, who did not go beyond surface gesture. Some of it lay, however, in the rather simplistic depiction of the adults. The loving father. The scolding mother. The hypocritical Master. The jealous Deacon. None of them showed any sign of struggling with Mizoguchi's despair, in their youth or adulthood, and so the despair seemed very much a part of being young, Mizoguchi with his stutter, Kashiwagi with his club foot, Tsurukawa with his death-wish wrapped in smiles. Sousuke Takaoka played Kashiwagi with the requisite bravado, while Shunsuke Daito was a winning Tsurukawa.
It is possible too that all the hi-tech projection robbed the Temple of its imaginative beauty. There was so much to look at on the stage, including the muscular dancing of Dairakudakan, that the Temple was just one more spectacle. Fuyuki Yamakawa, who played the Phoenix (Symbol of the Golden Pavilion) is a Tuvan throat-singer, and his singing did lend the Temple an otherworldly air. But after Mizoguchi set the Temple on fire, the screaming red lights at the back of stage were just that, screaming red lights. There was a lack of trust in the imagination of the audience. I imagine that another production, an intimate and spare one in a black box theater, may render both the beauty and the agony more visible.