5 Things: Chelfitsch

In Chelfitsch: Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech at RADAR L.A., the actors perform in Japanese with English subtitles, often to great comic effect. As office workers discuss everyday topics – a farewell lunch for a colleague, or the climate control system – their choreographed movements are incongruous, to the point of a wonderful ridiculousness.

Read a review of the show by Engine28’s Anthony Byrnes here.

The following is a short glossary of references:

1. Chelfitsch. Writer/director Toshiki Okada dreamed up Chelfitsch, the name of the company. According to Okada, it’s a  “baby-like disarticulation of the English word ‘selfish.’ ” And it’s intended to “evoke the social and cultural characteristics of today’s Japan, not least of Tokyo.”

2.  Cibo Matto. Music, from classical to Japanese pop, scores the monologues and dialogues. One of my favorites is Cibo Matto (“cheebo motto”), a New York-based Japanese trip-hop duo.  The loose translation of their name is “food madness” and many of their songs refer to food (“Artichoke,” “Beef Jerky,” “White Pepper Ice Cream”).

3. Hot Pepper. Hot Pepper is a free magazine distributed in Japan that includes a restaurant guide and coupons. In a post about Hot Pepper on the Japanese blog q-taro.com: “Years ago, FREE meant ‘not worth anything of value’ and people were suspicious if you tried to give anything away…But for the current generation FREE simply means ‘Yey FREE! Yatta!'”

4.  Motsu hot pot. Motsu hot pot, or Motsu nabe, is a soup made from beef or fish broth, kelp, and vegetables; it’s simmered for several hours. A “temp” office worker in the segment called “Hot Pepper” suggests a restaurant serving Motsu hot pot as a location for her co-worker’s going-away party.

5. Murakami. In “Air Conditioner,” two full-time office workers discuss topics ranging from the aggressive style of talk show hosts to the chilliness of the indoor environment. One worker suggests that it’s “Murakami” who turns down the thermostat, that he “resets it to 23 degrees.” I immediately thought of Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer (“The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”) and translator, whose work fits into the magical realism category. A quick check of Wikipedia (also referenced in the show) lists Murakami as a popular name in Japan with a long history, from a 10th century emperor to a contemporary artist.

Chelfitsch: Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech. RADAR L.A. Through Sunday, June 19, at Los Angeles Theatre Center. http://www.redcat.org/event/radar-la-festival