RASHOMON, Theatre Volution Outreach, at the Viaduct Theatre. In this era of delicate multiculturalism, an all-white cast tackling Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s Japanese tale (made famous by Akira Kurosawa’s film) can expect a level of scrutiny unknown a few decades ago–especially when the production is based on Englishman Ivor Benjamin’s 1988 adaptation, complete with faux-Japanese ritualization. Such cultural effrontery makes it difficult to stomach Theatre Volution Outreach’s white-bread cast donning slanty-eyed face paint and speaking in the stilted cadences of a Godzilla movie in their attempt to bring Rashomon to life.

But that’s actually the least of this production’s problems: it creeps along with such portentous humorlessness and indulges in so much unconvincing stylized movement that just staying focused on the story is a chore. And Rashomon is all about storytelling: a husband and wife are attacked by a notorious bandit, and the ensuing tragedy is retold by each in drastically different terms. Under Jimmy McDermott’s heavy-handed direction, the actors proclaim every line as though it were carved in marble; this approach supposedly ensures that everything will sound important, but ultimately nothing does. Add to this wearying onslaught an inexplicable accusatory tone (what is the audience doing wrong–listening quietly?), and you’ve got two hours of unengaging theater.

–Justin Hayford