Drum of the Waves of Horikawa
October 27, 2007
When I walked into the theatre at HERE and Iggy Pop's monster-hit duet with Kate Pierson Candy was blazing from the speakers, I thought to myself, "I can tell I'm gonna like this show already!" The set looked pretty cool, there was a band and they had two full drum kits set up. It looked right up my alley.
Boy, was I wrong. And it's only because of the fact that I signed on to review it that I didn't leave less than an hour into the show, like the couple in the press seats behind me.
Before I go into why, I will say here that my companion and I seemed to be in the minority in our extreme dislike of the show. I overheard a gal from a group of high school students say it was "the best play I ever seen" (sic). And the fellow next to us actually was the first to rise for a standing ovation. He also had no less than six beers over the course of the evening.
I have an idea of his libation intake because the show is broken down into five "episodes" with anywhere from a "brief pause" to a ten-minute intermission (which each time seemed to bleed toward 15) between each. Upon the announcement of the first "pause," composer-bandleader and Theatre of a Two-headed Calf co-founder Brendan Connelly told us that it was a good time to get some of the beer, wine, or sake they were selling at the in-theatre bar (no need to go all the way to the lobby!) or perhaps to purchase one of the band's CDs. Upon the third invite to head to the bar, I just wanted them to get on with the show.
The evening itself combines an 18th century Kabuki drama with live music inspired by the punk rock movement to tell the story of a woman named Otane, who, with a heavy penchant for drink, does her husband named Hecouldkillyou wrong when she is unknowingly spied by her busybody chatterbox of a maid (simply "The Maid") being ravaged by a rebellious bandit-type called Yougayman. And then again by the big brawny man called Getiton. Then Hecouldkillyou's sister arrives and is angry. And something about a Samurai. And people end up naked for reasons that were unclear to me.
In theory, the fusion works, but sadly in this practice it does not. I have two major beefs with this production. First, punk rock is NOT a spectator sport. Being asked (via the understanding that the people on stage do the sound and movement and we the audience do the watching and listening) to sit and watch while this music thrashes around us seems to me to blatantly miss what the music is all about. (Also, though there is no sound designer listed in the program, someone in charge might have done well to note that the speakers being used were so extremely treble-heavy that when I left the theatre, my ears felt as if I had just left a live rock concert where I stood directly in front of the speakers).
Second, though the movement is highly stylized, it is largely sloppy. This may have been intended as a nod to the roughhouse thrash-fest often associated with punk, but it came off more bull-in-a-china-shop than anything. And by the time Episode Five rolled around, I felt that it all would have been worth it for a kick-ass fight scene. Although the final break was used to actually change the set and the final scene for a moment teetered on destruction with wall-climbing and hints of chaos, there was no pay-off.
At the end of nearly two and a half hours, I felt like I had been assaulted, and walked out of the theater half-deaf.