333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
May 15-18, $28
Theater Company Kaimaku Pennant Race founder Yu Murai transforms Japan Society into a boxing arena in Ashita no Ma-Joe: Rocky Macbeth, running May 15-18. The sixty-minute show is a seriocomic mash-up of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the late 1960s manga Ashita no Joe (“Tomorrow’s Joe”), written by Ikki Kajiwara (Asao Takamori) and illustrated by Tetsuya Chiba and which was turned into several anime series and anime and live-action films. The title translates roughly to “Tomorrow No Witch,” referencing the witches of Macbeth as well as one of the play’s most famous monologues. The protagonist is Joe Yabuki, aka Rocky Macbeth, an ambitious troubled teen who finds success in the ring — and there will be an actual boxing ring onstage, with an audience of only sixty people sitting around it. The boxers wear funky-weird head-to-toe costumes over five rounds of battles as Macbeth seeks the crown, as king and champion.
“We also have been believing in a false sense of security / that is nothing more than a prophecy. / The Birnam Wood has already started to move. / What will the witches whisper to us, / the people who have been pretending not to notice? / What will we whisper to the future Macbeths to come?” Yu Murai writes, fusing themes of postwar Japan with the 1960s counterculture, one of his specialties. (At the 2009 Fringe Festival, the company had fun with Romeo and Toilet, complete with toilet paper rolls and bathroom humor.) The cast features Takuro Takasaki, G. K. Masayuki, and Kazuma Takeo, with video design and operation by Kazuki Watanabe; opening night will be followed by a Meet-the-Artists reception. The presentation is being held in conjunction with the Japan Society exhibition “Radicalism in the Wilderness: Japanese Artists in the Global 1960s,” which continues through May 31; Ashita no Ma-Joe: Rocky Macbeth tickets get you half off gallery admission.