Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Nosebleed
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent reviews of The Jungle and Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches

Aya Ogawa
Photo by DJ Corey Photography
It is clear that The Nosebleed is exactly what its author, director, and central actor, Aya Ogawa, wants it to be. This production, now at Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, starts as a meditation on personal failure and becomes an examination of Ogawa's family dynamics–her parents emigrated from Japan but she grew up in the U.S.–enacted by four alter egos. However, the 75-minute performance is disjointed and goes off into some puzzling tangents, including a prolonged reminiscence of a particular season of "The Bachelorette" and the importance of Princess Diana to a member of Ogawa's family.

Ogawa and the other cast members open the performance by sharing stories of their own personal failures. Throughout the show, Ogawa (who uses she/they pronouns), born in Tokyo and living in Brooklyn, talks about the difficulties of having a life cut into two distinct parts. They describe taking their children on a visit to Japan and worrying because the children aren't bilingual as they were.

Through much of the performance, Ogawa takes on the persona of her father, a difficult man to know or understand, with the rest of the cast taking all other roles: Aya 1 (Ashil Lee), Aya 2 (Kaili Y. Turner), Aya 3 (Saori Tsukada), and Aya 4 (Drae Campbell). They are a diverse group in appearance, ethnic background, manner of speaking, and attitude; together, they provide a questioning, uncertain picture of the author. The only other character is a condescending fellow parent at Aya's children's school (Cody Nickell, underused), identified solely as White Guy, who questions Aya's Asian bona fides because they do not speak with an accent.

The most intriguing part of the performance is its audience participation component. As Ogawa considers the estrangement between their father and the rest of the immediate family, they invite the audience to write down thoughts related to their own fathers, which then become part of a ritual that will finally allow Ogawa to put the past to rest.

The absence of a fourth wall comes through in the spare staging: Jian Jung has designed a set that consists of small clusters of furniture on a bare stage, as well as simple shirt and pants ensembles for the actors. Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew's lighting design and Megumi Katayama's sound design fill in some of the details of the austere setting.

The Nosebleed runs through April 23, 2023, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-393-3939 or visit

Written and directed by Aya Ogawa

Aya 0: Aya Ogawa
Aya 1: Ashil Lee
Aya 2: Kaili Y. Turner
Aya 3: Saori Tsukada
Aya 4: Drae Campbell
White Guy: Cody Nickell