Off Broadway Reviews
In The Nosebleed, the Japanese-American playwright weaves a story of relationships: between mothers and their children, between adults and their own parents, between sometimes disparate cultures, and, in a very real way, between playwright and audience. It is also about acceptance, honoring our pasts, forgiveness, and letting go. There are a million ways to portray these universal stories, and certainly the world of theater has and continues to explore pretty much all of them. But I cannot recall a play that has examined these in such an unguarded way while continually staying one step ahead of expectations of the "Oh, I know where this is going" variety.
In order to maintain the genuine and necessary connection with the audience, I am going to sidestep plot reveals or talk much about how the playwright, who also directs, has taken on and largely succeeded at pulling us into the 70-minute play. But I do want to give one example of how Ogawa thwarts expectations. You know how the pronoun "they" has been adopted by many, including the playwright, who identify their gender as non-binary? Now imagine you are someone who views the singular "they" as pretentious or even grammatically awkward. Instead of demanding or even challenging us for acceptance, Ogawa deals with this handily by having four "Aya Ogawas" onstage (Ashil Lee, Kaili Y. Turner, Saori Tsukada, and Drae Campbell, all terrific), often simultaneously. Can you get any more "they" than that? I hasten to add that the multiplicity of Ayas is never confusing nor is it used for absurdism as a show-offy gimmick.
Through it all, the real Aya Ogawa remains onstage as well, not as another "Aya" but in two different wonderfully performed roles: their son Kenya, whose own nosebleed gives the play its title; and their own icily disdainful father, deceased but still very much on their mind.
The Nosebleed is imbued with audience-trusting honesty, even when it takes us for a playful stroll into Season 21 of the TV show "The Bachelorette" and introduces us to a mostly clueless character known as "White Guy" (Chis Manley). It pretty much all fits together, logically if not always seamlessly. If there is one misstep, it comes off as a seemingly tacked-on ending, which, even if it gives Ogawa a sense of closure, is better addressed in the deeply moving sequence that comes just moments earlier. Still, I cannot recall another show where, as the audience is leaving, I heard terms like "touching," "tender," and "moving" being spoken aloud by so many. A heartfelt winner to be sure.