Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews
 

Americana Kamikaze – Off Broadway Theater Review

  

JAPANESE HORROR TAKES THE STAGE

 

picture - Americana KamikazeTheater Review

by Andrew Turner

published November 12, 2009

 

Americana Kamikaze

now playing Off Broadway at P.S. 122

through November 14

 

It seemed strange to clap for the actors at the end of Americana Kamikaze, now playing Off-Broadway at P.S. 122. Not that they weren’t good in the limited roles they were assigned, but because it was clear that an equal share of the praise belonged to the video, music, sound, and graphic artists that made this one of the most fascinating performances I’ve seen in years.

 

 

picture - Americana KamikazeThe production is inspired by Japanese ghost stories from the J-horror genre. Throughout the performance, fragmented horror scenes, ala The Ring or The Grudge, play out on a large screen center stage. They are extremely eerie and of excellent quality, and major kudos go to video producer and technical director William Cusick.

 

The dynamic, shifting quality of the video is in direct juxtaposition to the actors, who never move within the two boxes situated on either side of the screen. Their characters are mostly wooden, muttering cryptic monotones or high-pitch squeals of consumer delight, as the situation demands. Because they are so two-dimensional, it’s difficult to discern which characters are real and which are ghosts. Perhaps that’s the point. Writer/director Kenneth Collins’ script is so oblique and full of feints, it makes you wonder about the precise nature of reality.

 

Although all four of the actors do a fine job, it’s Japanese actor Ryosuke Yamada who steals the show. He utters his lines like a man trapped in a nightmare, who’s given up all hope of ever waking up. When he declares in a deadpan voice that he wants to kill a cow with his bare hands and eat it, it’s somehow hilarious.  

 

picture - Americana KamikazeSince the actors deliver all their lines into microphones, sound is of the utmost importance, and the techies deliver again. When the actors choose to whisper, they have pianissimo of a thousand degrees. And when they shout, the entire theatre shakes.

 

In their press release, Temporary Distortion claims to have made a sculpture for the stage. But sculpture is not the right word for a production with this many moving parts. Whatever it is, it is original and compelling, and you shouldn’t miss out on it. Just make sure to applaud loud enough at the end so the people backstage can hear you.

 

andrewturner @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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