Night mother: New play steps into dark family woods

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This show has deep roots.

A mother and daughter will act out their sometimes strained, cross-cultural relationship, while portraying characters in a new bilingual nightmare play, “Suicide Forest,” debuting at the Bushwick Starr on Feb. 27, according to its Japanese-American playwright.

“The play kind of takes a sharp turn where it really becomes this revelation of a mother-daughter relationsh­ip,” said Kristine Haruna Lee, who lives in Sunset Park. “I use the space of the play to talk about a mother-daughter relationship that’s had a lot of obstacles and language barriers, culture barriers, and what it means for us to be carrying this
intergenerational pain.”

Lee and her mother, who is a traditional Japanese Butoh dancer, explored their language barrier in the 2016 dance piece “Communing with You.” In the new 90-minute play, they join a cast of seven to tell the story of two people trying to navigate a nightmarish world.

The show takes place in Suicide Forest, an actual forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji that is famous as a spot where people go to kill themselves.

Lee plays a high-school girl trying to escape a strictly conformist society, who travels into the woods and meets a supernatural woman, played by her mother, who invites people to their deaths.

Lee said that she was inspired to explore her own background and identity on stage by the 1964 Adrienne Kennedy play “Funnyhouse of a Negro.”

“I was really struck by Kennedy’s ability to write a play from her kind of dark psychic landscape, the very inner vulnerable space, so I set out to write a place with that same intention,” she said. “I would say the nightmare is really pointing to this dark psychic space, the play itself is digging into my Japanese and Japanese-American identity.”

“Suicide Forest” at the Bushwick Starr (207 Starr St. between Irving and Wyckoff avenues in Bushwick, Feb. 27–March 16, Wed–Sat at 8 pm. $25.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Posted 12:00 am, February 18, 2019
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