Unrivaled – Play – Review – Seattle Public Theater & SIS Productions

@showsiveseen Rosie Narasaki's "Unrivaled" #play by @seattlepublictheater & SIS Productions. #Rival #frenemy writers in classical #Japan! Endearing empress portrayal from Adele Lim. Ending next weekend 6/2! #showsiveseen #theatre #poetry #haiku #asian #japanese ♬ Confidence (sped up – full song) – Ocean Alley

Elevator Thoughts (aka Tweet): Rosie Narasaki’s Unrivaled play by Seattle Public Theater and SIS Productions. Rival frenemy writers in classical Japan! Endearing empress portrayal from Adele Lim. Ending next weekend 6/2. #poetry #haiku #asian #japan #japanese

See it if you’re familiar with Japanese history, you’re a Japanophile, or you want to support Asian American live theatre.

Synopsis from the Theatre: 11th century ladies-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon are, to this day, two of Japan’s most beloved writers. They also kind of hated each other. Unrivaled is about friendship, heartbreak, and what it means to be a female artist. And no matter how much things change, the more they stay the same… even after a thousand years.

Attended Performance Date: 5/10/24 – Keep your eyes peeled for my preview posts on my website and social media if you want earlier notification of shows I’ve seen. Get your tickets now since the show closes 6/2.

Type: Play

World Premiere: No

Several or Few Scenes: Several

Several or Few Settings/Locations: Several

Static (Stationary) Set? Yes

Prior Exposure/Knowledge Required: You’d probably appreciate this show more if you’re familiar with Japanese history.

Defined Plot/Storyline: Yes

Equity Actors: 0

Total Number of Actors: 4

Perceived Pace of the Show: Medium speed

Was there an intermission? No

Was This the First Time I Attended a Production of this Show? Yes

Would I See It Again 3 Years from Now? No

Other Rave(s) Not Mentioned Above

  • Empress Teishi: Adele Lim portrayed an endearing nice-girl Empress Teishi, with energy similar to her previous role as an endorphin-overloaded sentient cloud in Sometimes the Rain, Sometimes the Sea. I also loved the Sailor Moon-like hairpiece in her Unrivaled costume.


  • Floor Sitting: I know it’s customary to portray traditional Japanese characters sitting on the floor, but it’s difficult for the audience to see lower actors. I suggest that they elevate the stage one foot higher.

Other Musing(s) and Observation(s)

  • Hand Fans: The frequent handheld fan usage gratuitously milked the non-Asian perception of cliche Japanese culture. However, I’m not Japanese (but I am Asian), so if this hand fan overuse is an accurate depiction of Japanese culture, leave a comment on my social media!
  • Crab Mentality: The story reminded me of crab mentality, which is basically a zero-sum competitive mindset that resents others’ successes rather than supporting and celebrating them. This mindset is prevalent in some Asian cultures. I blame our tiger (grand)parents!
  • Betrayal: I wish the script explored the betrayal theme more. That’s when the storyline was getting delicious!

Theatre Company: Seattle Public Theater and SIS Productions

Venue: Greenlake Bathhouse Theatre

Venue Physical Address: 7312 West Green Lake Dr N, Seattle, WA 98103

Price: Cheap

Tickets: https://www.seattlepublictheater.org/current-production

Ticket Affordability Options: You can self-select $10 price-accessible seats on the ticketing website.

Dates: May 10 to June 2, 2024

Seating: Assigned Seating

Parking: Free plentiful parking lot of Greenlake Park, which is adjacent to the theatre.

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Pictures: See pictures below and in video above by Kathy Hsieh and Rick Wong.

Pearl Lam & Adele Lim. Photo by Kathy Hsieh.
Alanah Pascual & Pearl Lam. Photo by Kathy Hsieh.
Alanah Pascual & Pearl Lam. Photo by Rick Wong.
Alanah Pascual, Pearl Lam, & Adele Lim. Photo by Rick Wong.

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