The Original Alternative Facts

Oakland’s Ubuntu Theater Project's "Rashomon" shows Aug. 25 to Sept. 17 at Brooklyn Preserve.


Michael Moran directs a Philip Kan Gotanda stage adaptation for Ubuntu.

Rashomon is best known in the West as a classic 1950 Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa, in which different characters tell very different versions of the same incident—a bandit raping a woman and killing her samurai husband. The bandit, the wife, an eyewitness woodcutter, and even the ghost of the husband, give completely contradictory testimonies, all of which are re-enacted in the film. But the movie is based on “In a Grove,” a 1922 modernist short story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, an author hailed as the “father of the Japanese short story”—and, curiously (but perhaps appropriately), takes its name from a completely different Akutagawa story.

Now the great Berkeley playwright Philip Kan Gotanda (The Wash, Yankee Dawg You Die, Sisters Matsumoto) goes back to the source for his stage adaptation of the original story, produced by Oakland’s Ubuntu Theater Project in a historic Oakland church. Ubuntu co-artistic director Michael Moran directs.

It may be an old story set in an era older still, but it seems all too timely in an era of “alternative facts” in which accurate reporting is routinely decried as “fake news” by an administration ushered into power by a wave of actual fake news masterminded by a hostile foreign power. When the whole idea of truth has been put up for grabs, who’s to say whose incompatible set of “facts” is, in fact, factual? 

Rashomon, Aug. 25-Sep. 17, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8 p.m.; Sunday 7 p.m.; $15-$45, Brooklyn Preserve, 1433 12th Ave., Oakland,


This report appears in the September edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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