Imagine being Kafuku and trying to pick up the pieces of your life after the death of Oto. On a professional level, that’s not impossible for him, although he is milking that Oto recording of “Uncle Vanya” as much as possible. How much of his acting and directing method is tied up in that piece of magnetic tape? He can‘t spend the rest of his life doing one play, so who will record the next for him?

As for Kafuku moving on to another woman, Oto’s uniqueness brings to mind the scene in “Annie Hall” where Alvy, post-breakup, puts himself into similar dating circumstances with other women. One woman just stares at him perplexed when he freaks out about putting lobsters in the pot again, in contrast to the iconic scene with Annie. It’s funny, but also such a great metaphor for older people who really know what they want in a partner and found it in someone who‘s no longer — or never has been — available.

So, when I wrote in yesterday’s essay that Kafuku loved Oto as much for her faults as her virtues, this is what I was getting at. Imagine Kafuku writing a profile for a dating app. He probably includes something like “looking for someone loyal” and “would prefer a good driver.” But he would, of course, much rather have Oto with these faults than a beautiful empty shell clear of red flags. What Lana Del Rey calls “the darkness, the deepness” in “Mariners Apartment Complex” is what Kafuku can’t do without, and therefore remains his obsession.

This brings us back to the rehearsal room. It’s interesting to think of the dating pool in comparison to acting rehearsals and to see the qualities that Kafuku wants to bring to his cast. We see the challenge of his method in the first rehearsal, with a woman speaking Japanese sharing a scene with a Chinese speaking male. Not knowing the other language, the actor begins his lines too early, prompting the Japanese speaker to break character and say “I haven’t finished my lines yet.” They improvise from there and complete the scene.

Next up we get Takatsuki, audition with Janice Chang from Taiwan (played by the stunning Sonia Yuan.) Janice is auditioning for the role of Yelena, an important but rather shallow character in the play. Takatsuki is trying out for Astrov, the brooding philosopher of the piece — in other words, a character completely unlike the actor. Not knowing the text, Takatsuki asks to improvise the scene and then brings to Astrov qualities completely missing from his character — aggression, raw sexuality, borderline violence.

Kafuku reacts strongly and stands up to stop the scene — but interesting does so not at the moment of violence, but at the punctuation of the seduction when Takatsuki kisses Chang. This is too close to home for Kafuku and evidence that the body doesn’t lie. He can’t hold back his physical repulsion brought on by Takatsuki’s seductive power, but he continues to restrain himself and apologizes immediately.

We can see from this scene that there is chemistry between Takatsuki and Chang, but that could be a problem in a play where their seduction meanders all over the place and is ultimately not successful. This leads Kafuku to, shockingly, cast Takasuki as Vanya … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Next up, we have a beautiful demonstration of the inclusive power of Kafuku’s staging method when Lee Youn-A, who speaks in Korean sign language, gives a powerful and expressive audition for the role of Sofya. The fact that deaf performer can be so easily accommodated into this piece demonstrates the brilliance of Kafuku’s adaptation.

I find Kafuku’s open mindedness about the casting very inspiring, and it makes for a very interesting contrast to how he invites people into his life. He seems willing to put aside all kinds of emotions to get what he needs from people. But you have to wonder if he loses himself in the process. And the central mystery about him remains: if he’s ever going to be capable of becoming vulnerable with someone new after he lost the one person who he invested so much of himself into.

Kafuku’s Situation