Americana Kamikaze – Off Broadway Theater Review
JAPANESE HORROR TAKES THE STAGE
by Andrew Turner
published November 12, 2009
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.
The 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.
Since 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
andrewturner @ stageandcinema.com