Drum of the Waves of Horikawa

Issue 631 : Nov 1–7, 2007

Somewhere in the notes I amassed during the alternately frivolous and rigorous Drum of the Waves of Horikawa, there’s this: “Rape is funny.” Not a sentiment I stand behind normally, but it sprang to mind when watching the pistonlike pelvic thrusts and antic tongue-waggling of leather-clad Jess Barbagallo (in male drag), forcing herself on Heidi Schreck’s hapless, dipsomaniacal samurai wife. Making this scene of cartoonish sexual violation even sillier is Barbagallo’s mock-Japanese handle: Eesogay Yougayman.
     If it sounds like your bratty little sister got ahold of a rare volume of Japanese ukiyo-e prints, pasted in pictures of her favorite rock stars and made potty jokes in the margins, that’s a fair summation of Theater of a Two-Headed Calf’s wildly inventive treat. Director Brooke O’Harra and composer Brendan Connelly have meticulously mapped the common paths between punk rock and 18th-century Kabuki (pain, lawbreaking and spiteful violence are just a few) to delirious effect.
     Underscored by Connelly’s machine-gun bursts of death-metal and performed by a deadpan-cool ensemble, the production tells a five-part tale of fidelity and revenge. But the story is almost beside the point: O’Harra is a resourceful generator of bizarre images pilfered from Japanese illustrations and Western fashion. The resulting aural and visual circus—staged on Peter Ksander’s witty boxing-ring set composed of plungers, mop handles and rope—helps distract from the fact that at more than two hours, the thrill of this experiment eventually diminishes. Still, it’s amazing what sick, outrageous connections O’Harra & Co. inspire.