Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Meet Murasaki Shikibu Followed by Book Signing, and Other Things
The impossibly versatile and always charming Thammavong was entirely convincing as the anxious bookstore manager waiting for her big event to start. Thammavong's endearingly intense nervousness and the carefully curated stacks of books laid out by set designer Sara Outing (I could have browsed for an hour!) really made the Louis Bluver Theater feel like a signing event at an independent bookshop. Muroya's ostentatious and flamboyant style captured the contemporary zeitgeist of authors who are also influencers and internet celebrities. But, in spite of her attitude and appearance, Murasaki was anything but a modern celebrity. In fact, Murasaki is the author of The Tale of Genj, the first novel ever written, approximately a thousand years ago. It's a set up as initially strange as it is ultimately satisfying.
The production's creative team takes great pains to keep the audience guessing exactly how the situation is going to play out, going so far as to keep the programs away from the audience until the performance has ended. I will not give away too much, because this play is sure to be produced again soon, but I will say that Makoto Hirano was excellent and the play evolves in unexpected and satisfying ways. If you love books, bookstores, authors or history, seek out this play the next time it is produced and hope that the next production is as good as this one.
Meet Murasaki Shikibu Followed by Book Signing, and Other Things ran from June 9 to June 18, 2023, at Louis Bluver Theater at the Drake, 302 S Hicks St, Philadelphia PA. For more information call 215-399-0088 or visit tinydynamite.org.