Americana Kamikaze

J-horror chills via multimedia theater.

  • SMOOTH OPERATOR Kawahisa places a scary call; Photographs: Jon Weiss

SMOOTH OPERATOR Kawahisa places a scary call; Photographs: Jon Weiss

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

For a century now, the successful horror play has been the pop-culture Holy Grail, with an emphasis on drinkable blood. But ladle on the fake gore as you may, and still the spooky and the ooky tend to look ridiculous onstage. In an elegant solution, Temporary Distortion divides its legitimately frightening Americana Kamikaze along media lines: Text and presence are supplied by live actors, but all the jump-scares come courtesy of William Cusick’s ravishing, cinematic video.

Two at a time, the players stand in coffin-size boxes, like dolls ready for purchase. They intone—dead-eyed into their microphones—suggestive, elliptical narratives in which the men (Brian Greer and Ryosuke Yamada) are possessive husbands, and the women (Lorraine Mattox and the chameleonic Yuki Kawahisa) are either vengeful ghosts or prospective murderees. Between the boxes, a narrow screen shows Cusick’s minifilms of eerie empty spaces (subway tunnels, a hotel hallway), J-horror conventions (dripping brides, faces leaping at the camera), or in the weirdest and most wonderful instance, a country-music video about homicidal jealousy.

The show, slightly overlong at 70 minutes, plays a clever push-me-pull-you with our nerves. John Sully’s sound and Cusick’s startle-edits get our hearts stuttering, while the live element—so deliberately hypnotic—lulls us back into willing victimhood. As with any frightfest, though, the early moments are the best, since mysterious shadows tend to flatten out in the light of exposition. Kamikaze is at its most delicious when the show is content not to make sense; to simply drag a cold finger, excruciatingly slowly, down your spine. Just try not to shiver.—Helen Shaw

See more Theater reviews

P.S. 122. Written and directed by Kenneth Collins. With ensemble cast. 1hr 10mins. No intermission.