How come the 10 Doll Suns—rice paper lanterns bobbing high in the sky on long, slender stems—are so charming and hypnotic? Glowing cherry red when they first appear one at a time, they are a happy group of siblings who share the duty of lighting up the planet. Their fatal mistake is to go out together one day, which has disastrous consequences. Twist turns it into a menacing showdown, with the suns aggressively approaching the audience—the show’s one and only echo of climate change. But when nine of the suns are killed to save the Earth (the program also betrays this), the music and the moment have a sad beauty.
The pièce de résistance, however, is the appearance of Kua Fu, the giant we see awakening in the final myth. No one would ever mistake this stony creature for the giant King Kong doll we saw on Broadway, but as Kua Fu looks around and orients himself, that’s exactly who he looks like.
With propulsive, high-voltage music to match his urgency, Kua Fu rushes into place in the center of the stage as the sun, a rice-paper lantern, moves around him, out of reach of his long arms. It’s mysteriously poignant: this huge, wordless creature so filled with longing for what it can’t and shouldn’t have; this giant who, if he continues, will drink all the sweet waters of the earth.
He, of course, fails in his quest; the program tells you that too. But here the projected English text at least covers it up a bit. Because in the legend, when Kua Fu dies, forests of peach blossom trees grow from his cane.
The doll has no cane and no peach blossom trees grow. But wouldn’t they have been gorgeous?
Book of Mountains and Seas
Until March 20 at St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn; stannswarehouse.org. Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes.