“The Room Nobody Knows”


By Marcina Zaccaria



Niwa Gekidan Penino’s “The Room Nobody Knows” is a surreal drama created by Kuro Tanino, and it is featured at this year’s Under the Radar Festival.

More of a nightmare than a fantasy, “The Room that Nobody Knows” leaves the audience with questions and feeling perplexed;  The play that takes place on the day of an older brother’s birthday when a younger brother presents a fantasy room to the senior brother.

Kuro Tanino directs this swift, 60 minute drama featuring striking performances from performers Ichigo Iida, Momoi Shimada, Taeko Seguchi, and Ikuma Yamada.  They bring their style, fierce characterization, and bold showings to the stage.  Unafraid, the performances sometimes feel brash, sometimes haunting.  Moments of quiet are juxtaposed with sequences that reveal the anxieties and inner landscape of the mind of the characters.

The stunning set features multi-level design.  In the upper-level room characters sit on chairs shaped like large, phallic symbols.  The ceiling is designed with blue, cracked mosaics and a chandelier hanging at the apex of the room.  In the lower level, the room resembles a laboratory where Tanino’s character has crafted a number of puppet heads.  The stark, white room is filled with medical instruments and a clock.  A small side door provides a means of entrance.  To break through from level to level, the main characters ascend through a trap door.  More than just a fantasy room, the upstairs space serves as a playing ground where the main characters face their struggles about chess, exams, and the problems of daily life.

The theater company, Niwa Gekidan Penino has previously created productions based on the abstract concept of “the garden.”  They hope to achieve what they describe as “form beyond formula”   by working with unconventional spaces. “The Room Nobody Knows” originally played in Tokyo.  Kuro Tanino, who created the piece, gave performances for approximately 25 people in his small Tokyo apartment.

After the Under the Radar Festival, “A Room Nobody Knows,” will continue to tour North America.   The show will be seen at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, FringeArts in Philadelphia, and On the Boards in Seattle.

The Performing Arts Program is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year, and The Under the Radar Festival is in its 10th year of production, holding true to their values of presenting theater that is exciting, independent, and experimental.

“The Room Nobody Knows” is playing in New York City for five performances only, until January 12th at Japan Society located at 333 East 47th Street.