Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards

By Peter Oswald
From the 18th-century Japanese play
by Chikamatsu Monzaemon
Rorschach Theatre

“An unusual but captivating night at the theatre that is satisfying from beginning to end.”
— DCist

“This is an evening of stark contrasts which begins well before the house lights come down. You enter the performance space in the former sanctuary of a church to find clearly Japanese set pieces including paper screens, but the air is full of contemporary western music. Once the lights dim, the costumes confirm the ancient setting but the predominantly occidental cast make no effort to hide the fact that their names are Guadamuz, MacDonald, Porter and McCormick as well as Twanmo, Tuazon, Nassri and Khalsa. The performance style is both rigidly formal and freely energetic, a mix that is difficult to accomplish but which Baker’s cast achieves quite well.” – Potomac Stages

“There are those of us who fall into the category of people who believe that any movie or play with a swordfight is automatically worth watching. Even if you don’t fall into that category, Rorschach Theatre’s masterful production of Fair Ladies At A Game Of Poem Cards has plenty of other pleasures to offer.

But those swordfights! Fair Ladies mostly revolves around the tale of two samurai who fall for some off-limits ladies-in-waiting to the Empress, and the tragic consequences and imperial political scheming that results from their liaisons. And when Fair Ladies transports us into the samurai world, it treats us to some well-executed, kendo-inspired swordplay, set to a modern soundtrack with eastern influences.

The strength of Rorschach’s production is that rather than being just a collection of strong performances and occasionally moving moments, the work as a whole provides an unusual but captivating night at the theatre that is satisfying from beginning to end.” DCist

“There’s a good bit to admire: a lovely design, all platforms and screens and projections that exploit the furthest reaches of the rough-edged Sanctuary Theatre space, plus expressive performances from some among the cast. Rahaleh Nassri’s graceful Empress is particularly fetching, and both Patrick Bussink (as a samurai who loves unwisely) and John-Michael MacDonald (as another samurai, a credulous executioner, and a monk’s opportunistic servant) do nicely precise physical work. Certain of the stage pictures are almost exquisite—the release of an enormous aviary full of rare birds, for instance, mimed by three samurai holding tiny wicker cages—and probably will be once the players loosen up and throw themselves wholly into the ballet of the proceedings.” Washington City Paper

“Melding incredibly poetic language with samurai action and insightful humor.” Curtain Up

“A rich and pleasant evening.”DC Theatre Reviews

FEATURING Rahaleh Nassri, Scott McCormick, Patrick Bussink, Nelina Giridhar, Gwen Grastorf, Cesar Guadamuz, Jai Khalsa, John Michael McDonald, Paul McLane, Ghillian Porter, Yasmin Tuazon and Al Twanmo / DESIGNED BY Matthew Frederick (Sound), Nathaniel John Sebastian Sinnott (Set), Debra Kim Sivigny (Costumes), Justin Thomas (Lights) and Amy Kleist (Technical Direction) WITH Casey Kaleba (Fight choreography), Cam Magee (Vocal Coach) STAGE MANAGED BY Sharon King and Lindsey Ruehl

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