Kwaidan: Three Japanese Ghost Stories

Like fellow experimental director Robert Wilson, Ping Chong is a master at creating big, beautiful, often enigmatic tableaux: angels kicking through a field of feathers, Asian teenagers jitterbugging, a 16th-century Dutch trader and a Japanese court official sitting cross-legged at opposite sides of the stage trying to converse. But unlike Wilson, Chong doesn’t fly from meaning–he embraces it. No matter how extravagant his performances, Chong never lets the spectacle run the show. Even when he packed his work with dance (or dancelike sequences) in The Angels of Swedenborg, he never let us forget the point: re-creating onstage the life-altering mystical experiences of this inspired scientist turned spiritual leader. Nor did Chong get lost in the fragments of Deshima 1993, which distilled 400 years of East-West relations into a 90-minute dance-theater piece. The last time Chong’s work was seen in Chicago was 15 years ago, when he workshopped The Angels of Swedenborg with local actors and dancers. Chong’s current piece, to be performed this weekend, is Kwaidan: Three Japanese Ghost Stories, created in collaboration with puppeteer John Ludwig and designer Mitsuru Ishii and based on three ancient Japanese folktales translated by 19th-century American journalist Lafcadio Hearn. Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. October 3 and 4: Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 3 and 7:30 PM. $20. –Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Beatriz Schiller.