i want to be Musashi: a clown samurai fantasy
nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
August 16, 2006
i want to be MUSASHI: a clown samurai fantasy is a show that demands to be accepted on its own terms. Christopher Lueck's solo piece about a clown who wants to be a samurai is loose and funny, eschewing conventional story in favor of its own internal rhythm: some routines go on longer than necessary, transitions from one section to the next sometimes happen arbitrarily, and there's some audience participation (more on that later). But, it is a fantasy, after all, so it doesn't have to make sense. And, it is a clown show, so it's only requirement is to make one laugh. Happily, i want to be MUSASHI delivers on that front in spades.
Late for work one morning, Lueck's nameless clown character is about to walk out the door when he declares that he hates his job and doesn't want to go to the office anymore. He quickly finds inspiration in a biography of Miyamoto Musashi, Japan's greatest samurai warrior, and leaving his former life behind, sets out for "the badlands of South Dakota" (no kidding) to begin his samurai training.
There's an existentialist bent to MUSASHI. During the show's first section, Lueck admits that he is making himself hollow with the compulsive busybody nature of contemporary life—hence, his switch to becoming a samurai, and a simpler existence. MUSASHI, if nothing else, stresses the positivity of finding meaning and purpose in one's life.
But, MUSASHI is also funny. When Lueck predictably gets his tie caught in his briefcase, the audience laughs at the inevitability of it. Later on, director Amanda Pekoe scores Lueck's journey to South Dakota with Spaghetti Western music. There's a terrific sequence during which Lueck illustrates how best to deceive an enemy by performing a surprising rendition of Kander & Ebb's "Razzle Dazzle" while slaughtering a bunch of red balloons. Of course, the sight of a samurai wearing a red nose is funny in itself.
There's also the aforementioned audience participation, in which three lucky viewers get brought on stage to learn the basics of combat before fighting each other and then Lueck. At the performance I attended, I was chosen as one of the participants, and enjoyed myself immensely. (Lueck is mighty handy with that sword: he smacked a wrist shot down on me faster than I could say "Uncle.") The rest of the crowd was hesitant—it was like pulling teeth for poor Lueck to get anyone up there with him, but he finally managed it after nearly five minutes of pleading. So, if you plan on seeing MUSASHI, be prepared to get involved: helmets, facemasks, and foam-bladed practice swords are provided for everyone's safety.
Lueck is a vigorous performer who clearly enjoys what he's doing: it's still refreshing to see a player this committed to their material. Pekoe directs him with a loose reign, which is what MUSASHI calls for. The show is ultimately a celebration of Lueck's love for clowning and samurais, so go join the party. And, when it comes time for you to get on stage, for God's sake don't make the man beg!