On Saturday night, group of friends and I braved the almost single-digit temperatures in the D.C.-area to see the play, “God Bless Baseball,” by Toshiki Okada. Naturally, the title alone intrigued me. But the play turned out to be seriously deep. Basically, it’s about Japan and Korea, their relationship to each other, as well as their relationship with the U.S. All told through the lens of baseball. The play is presented in Japanese and Korean with English subtitles. It starts out with a man teaching two women about baseball. At one point an Ichiro impersonator is added to the mix. A far off voice speaks to them.
And then it gets seriously weird. But fascinating at the same time. According to one summary, the play “addresses the current social and political climates of Japan and South Korea, where baseball is deeply rooted in popular culture. Through an episodic narrative and incorporating Okada’s distinctive style of hyper-colloquial speech and subtly choreographed commonplace gestures, God Bless Baseball unearths images, conflicts and personal and national memories related to the sport, while offering a humorous yet cynical allegory depicted by the naïve adoration that two brothers (personifications of Korea and Japan) have for their parent (America).” Talk about your Baseball Sociology!
After performances in New York; Chicago; Philadelphia; Columbus, OH; and College Park, MD, the show is now off to Taiwan. For now, I’ll just leave you with a clip from the Japan Society of New York, one of the play’s sponsors.