Spiritual redemption and hard truths mingle in the West Coast premiere of 'Poro Oyna'
In ensemble member Kawamura Koheisai's impressive Balinese-inspired shadow designs, Aynu Rakkur's shadow self is a black and white portrait of grace and resolve, a noble profile protruding from a finely drawn latticework of hair. He's tough, goes his own way, and has a sly sense of humor. He lives beside Kaikaiunt, a sacred lake and the source of all life. One day a growling, cockeyed monster with a fearsome under bite and an unpronounceable name (rattled off in a long string of Aynu sibilants actually delighting to the ear) steals the Sun Goddess and plunges the world into darkness and a perpetual sleep from which many humans never awake.
As other lesser gods try and fail to wrest the sun from the clutches of the monster, Aynu Rakkur bides his time, doggedly carving away at something that turns out to be "a bear for a flat screen TV." Finally taking umbrage at finding his front door pinned down with arrows and spears, he seeks out the monster and the two of them tumble deep down into the Underworld, where they battle for some six years.
The happy ending might have been expected, but it came, under the circumstances, with what felt too like an auspicious beginning.
"The people come back, the sun returns," rejoices the narrator, "our sacred power is getting stronger every day." *