At Artswest Miku, and the Gods Dreams too Big

Miku, and the gods follows the story of a young girl navigating the waters of grief. It is written by Julia Izumi and directed by Alyza Delpan-Monley playing at Artswest traditionally (in-person) and via video (what this review is based on) in order to remain Covid accessible. Written by someone of color, it quickly becomes apparent that this story was written with minorities in mind. And while pockets of this 100-minute no-intermission play are filled with delightfully authentic waters of grief, other parts are difficult to swim through.

Though this production consists of five characters, the character development is mostly lost. This is due to the constant scene changes where nothing changes except the lighting and sound. However, how Annie Liu’s lighting and Madelyn Zandt’s sound interact with each other on a round stage with essentially no set, at the very least, makes the show interesting. Despite regular voiceovers telling the audience of different scenes via phrases such as “Note #2” or “Movement 5,” these become words as the significance or differences between the two are never explained. It comes across as a pretentious artistic choice that might work in an academic theatre setting but is too confusing beyond that. Lighting is the only thing that differentiates the Underworld from a pool from a temple from every other setting, and it simply is not enough. The play was more than halfway through before it started becoming a bit less foggy as to what the plot was trying to convey.

Without giving away too much of this unique story miku, and the gods with the titular character acted by Lola Rei Fukushima, is about more than a 12-year-old wanting to graduate from her minor—as in unimportant AND not yet the age of majority, both of which the audience are explicitly told as opposed to shown—role in life. She wants to be as big as the “beautiful sky” she was named after. She is precocious in a story market over-saturated with tweens clearly projecting the thoughts of their adult writers. She deals with the multifaceted concept of loss and the myriad of emotions accompanying it. That said, Fukushima does well with their constraints, but the tattoos were incongruent with the space-bun hairstyle and “childlike” behavior. The tattoos wouldn’t be noticeable or distracting in a larger theatre and a production that wasn’t being recorded up close.

Naho Shioya expertly plays a grandmother who is not ready to say goodbye.

Neve shines as the sage and witty, One Who is Wise.

The acting is not where miku and the gods struggle; it’s the writing. The story doesn’t know who it really is. It feels like a 12-year-old pretending they are more than a kid and trying on many costumes to find the one that fits. That said, this play’s diversity might be enough for some theatre-goers to ignore the fact that the show ultimately bites off more than it can chew.

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