Butterfly, Butterfly, Kill Kill Kill!
nytheatre.com review by Nathaniel Kressen
August 13, 2010
Butterfly, Butterfly, Kill Kill Kill! is an immersive, inventive theatrical ride. Celebrating the marginalized work of 1960s avant-garde filmmaker Seijun Suzuki, the show links together stylized violence, haunting imagery, purposefully low budget visual/audio effects, live ambient music, and a healthy dose of irreverent humor to create a world so mesmerizing that the delivery supercedes any need for traditional story structure. Here, it is the journey that matters, and it is one well worth catching.
The plot itself is straightforward and simple: Hanada is a once-prominent assassin (perpetually ranked No. 3) who long ago dreamed of achieving No. 1 status in Tokyo. When a routine job brings unforeseen complications, he finds himself once again in contention for the top spot, albeit amidst circumstances beyond his control.
Writer/director Patrick Harrison displays a comprehensive knowledge of his source material, and confidently derives a stand-alone production. As the audience enters, they are greeted by the cast in whiteface and sunglasses. A pair of men unroll a banner inscribed with Japanese phrases. A scantily clad girl giggles lightly and stretches provocatively. Harrison stalks the stage orchestrating everyone's actions, occasionally calling out pop culture references to the audience in a cartoonish samurai accent. The effect is that of entering a Japanese anime sequence. We are introduced to the somewhat misogynist, somewhat racist elements of the art form, and learn to reconcile any misgivings before the show even begins. This choice proves immeasurably helpful in being able to relax and enjoy the production.
The story is told through vignettes (a more appropriate term might be chapters), often shifting from fast-paced battle sequences to slow-motion dreamscapes. The performers exceed expectations on both fronts, serving the play with committed, engaging, and fully realized performances.
Along with Harrison's direction, the success of the show belongs to the outstanding soundtrack, fight choreography, and design elements. Composer David Harrington shines, performing several instruments onstage in conjunction with recorded tracks to provide an evocative backdrop for the action. Fight choreography from Adam Scott Mazer is confident, comedic, and continually surprising. Lights, puppets, and video are all fantastic, designed by Alana Jacopy, Jeff Wood, and Nancy Kwon, respectively.
It is worth noting that Depth Charge creates moments onstage unlike anything I've seen onstage recently. The femme fatale seduction scene jumps to mind for its unexpected surrealism. The pre-show warm-up resembles a dark circus. The playfulness, especially in the early scenes, envelops the audience fully without ever bothering to reconcile the tone in terms of plot. Butterfly, Butterfly, Kill Kill Kill! is a beast entirely unto itself, and my first must-see recommendation of the 2010 FringeNYC Festival.