Monday, November 2, 2009

Americana Kamikaze (PS 122)

Americana Kamikaze
PS 122
October 28, 2009
Kenneth Collins
William Cusick (co-creators)

Americana Kamikaze (teaser) from Temporary Distortion on Vimeo.

I'm not into horror, mostly because I don't find fear too thrilling (mostly it's just stressful). But Temporary Distortion's Americana Kamikaze offers the sort of scare that I imagine others find in the genre. After a quick shock or two early on, this cutting-edge merger of stage acting and video drops the standard kit of scares. Instead, creators Kenneth Collins and William Cusick build a sort of dramatic hall of mirrors designed to unsettle the rational mind.

Collins and Cusick leave just enough traditional dramaturgy to keep the audience engaged. The plot's got several characters, and it does come to a climax. It sees a Japanese salaryman (Ryosuke Yamada) slowly losing his grip after having witnessed an uncanny attack by a succubus upon a couple in a subway station. But this straightforward description erases what's so cool about Kamikaze: its structure is shaped like an infinity sign.

The play cuts back and forth across time, and the characters relate dreams and urban legends, but there's no narrative signposts to help you orient yourself in the story. Yamada's unhinged everyman doesn't provide an anchor for the literal-minded either. He's got the draggy monotone of someone whose mind has been befogged by his glimpse of horror. Kamikaze is the dramatic equivalent of an MC Escher print: your mind can't find the point of focus.

It's not all great, even for those who like their horror cerebral and their theater hermetic. When the show breaks its sleek modern atmosphere—as it does in an ironic parody of a sad-sack karaoke song—its strength and focus ebb. And a subplot involving an American couple seems lifted from another genre altogether. But on the whole, Kamikaze is one seriously disturbing show, a 21st century haunted house for the avant-garde.


Americana Kamikaze plays at PS 122 (150 First Avenue, betw. E. 9th & E. 10th St.), closing on November 14.

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