Soul Samurai

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

SOLID ACTING CHOPS Sebastian slices and dices.

Photograph: Jim Baldassare

You would think that this formula would get old. Qui Nguyen and his company, Vampire Cowboys, take a classic (say, Hamlet), throw zombies and kung fu at it, and wind up with one of their pulp-comic mash-ups (see Living Dead in Denmark). Surely, after a couple, the joke wears off? As Dewdrop, the heroine of their Foxy Brown--meets--Kill Bill goof Soul Samurai, would say: Bitches, hardly.

In a dark (darkly awesome!) future, New York’s boroughs have grown too dangerous to police. Shoguns reign, vampires infest Brooklyn, and most terrifying of all, it’s still stylistically the ’70s. After losing her lover (Bonnie Sherman in an amazing white-girl Afro) to some undead hoodlums, Dewdrop (Maureen Sebastian) gets herself a training montage and a sidekick (Paco Tolson), and sets off for revenge. Explosively funny nonsense—including every word that leaves Tolson’s mouth—ensues.

Teaming up with the more-established Ma-Yi Theater Company has given the Cowboys a lot of rope—the show sports stop-motion animation sequences, startlingly good puppets, and a pimped-out wardrobe. That Nguyen and director Robert Ross Parker turned the rope into a lasso (instead of a noose) proves just how deft these nutjobs really are. Soul Samurai kicks the Vampire Cowboys recipe up a notch; the script has the complexity of a graphic novel, though it hasn’t sacrificed its zinelike homemade sweetness. Yes, outside it’s still the chill dead of winter, but go and guffaw your way through Samurai. It can bring you back to life.—Helen Shaw

More Theater reviews >>

HERE. By Qui Nguyen. Dir. Robert Ross Parker. With ensemble cast. 1hr 50mins. No intermission.