FILLER WORDS and nervous verbal tics make up maybe 10 percent of the dialogue in Enjoy, Toshiki Okada's "hyper-realist" play about twentysomethings in Tokyo. The team at CoHo Productions makes a risky choice with the show, which exaggerates the very specific diction and mannerisms of Japan's overeducated, underemployed "Lost Generation."
Turns out, American millennials are a pretty good cognate. The characters in Enjoy work part-time at jobs they're overqualified for because of an economic crash. Sound familiar?
What's not familiar is Enjoy's insistence that these characters are inevitably headed toward homelessness or suicide. The play explores that social element in a jarring, powerful way.
The play revolves around a group of part-time employees at a comic book-café. With only the loose hint of a plot, it's more of a window into this section of Japanese culture than a story, but it feels fresh and universal all the same. Introversion and faux self-awareness are depicted by keeping the lights up at the CoHo space, allowing the characters to interrupt action to overexplain everything to the audience. Each moment is exploded into every imagined cause, interpretation, and result of itself. Characters ask rhetorical questions about how they should think or feel, encouraged when we agree, wincing when we laugh at them; nervous tics and awkward movements are exaggerated into strange dances.
These characters are desperate to be defined by one another, but hypothetical interactions stand in for actual communication. By the end, the hopelessness of their inability to communicate is frankly chilling.