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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 21, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 42
Rock 'em sock 'em Ninja acrobats
Arts & Entertainment
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Rock 'em sock 'em Ninja acrobats

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Nanda: The Jacket
Broadway Performance Hall
Through October 23


Take a pinch of Japanese anime, a splash of high-tech video, some Cirque du Soleil gibberish and acrobatics, and a bunch of Brothers Karamazov, mix it together and you get & Nanda! The four ex-Port Townsendites have appeared several times at the Moisture Festival, but this hour-long performance is a big stretch and a pretty amazing feat of athletic endurance. Blending martial arts, acrobatics, film, animation, and juggling, and a whole bunch of corny, fun jokes, they describe themselves as 'acrobaticalist Ninja theater!'

Choreographed to an almost non-stop explosive audio track, these young (very buff and sometimes semi-naked) men tell an apocryphal story of the Jacket, somehow created in mystical history back before cavemen, that bestows super-magic powers to the wearer. Once these men get ahold of it, competition ensues to keep it, but it gets stolen over and over again.

Wonderful physical bits are created, like a slow-motion stop-action Jacket transfer during a Ninja fight, where the Jacket travels from one pair of arms to the next and the power switches to the new wearer. Each punch and kick is pre-recorded as a sound effect on the audio track, forcing the performers to remember the complex dance steps exactly or miss landing a kick or punch at exactly the right moment. Intricate jumps, falls, and rolls intermingle with the fake punchery, designed to elicit laughs along with admiration.

The term 'nanda' is apparently a colloquial Japanese equivalent of 'What?!' (or maybe 'WTF?!'), and that's the kind of reaction they seem to crave. The four performers (Misha Fradin, Kiyota Sage, Tomoki Sage, and Chen Pollina) and their producer (Danny Milholland), all in their mid-20s, grew up together in Port Townsend where their parents limited their access to television, and they apparently spent their days pretending to be Ninjas and fighting with each other.

While there is a great deal of martial-arts violence, it's so clearly cartoonish that the youngest child (who can stay properly seated) can see and enjoy it, yet it's sophisticated enough for any adult. That's a triumph for the creators and a great treat for anyone looking for a family-friendly outing.

There may be tiny breaks filled with videos they've made to give them a moment to breathe or change costumes backstage, but the stamina needed to pull off this production is quite phenomenal. If you can stop grinning at the silliness for a minute, you might start wondering whether someone is going to faint onstage from over-exertion!

The Jacket is a delicious treat and a high-larious spectacle. These men are doing everything they can to establish themselves on the national and international scene. See them now, and you'll have bragging rights later! For more information, go to www.nandatown.com.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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