Directed by Brian Rott and Andrew Parchman
Choreographed by Brian Rott, Jenni Reinke, Posy Knight, Jessi Miller and Alex Roy
Produced by Quasimodo Milwaukee Physical Theatre
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Dance
Runs through 8.30.15
VENUE #5: The Celebration Of Whimsy, 21 Clinton St.
by Jane Sato on 8.28.15
Kamikaze Cutesauce Cosplay Club
BOTTOM LINE: Take a wild ride with this inspiring and zany MIlwaukee troupe as they take Japanese culture up ten notches.
In their first trip to FringeNYC, the Quasimondo Milwaukee Physical Theater troupe has set the bar high for themselves. Let's call it a Veuve Clicquot taste on a Coors Light budget. Kamikaze Cutesauce Cosplay Club is a show full of dance, puppetry, and martial arts that explores contemporary costume play and the threads that form gender, identity, and culture. The smart set by Posy Knight, consists of sliding screens that move around during almost every transition and make the space seem twice as big as it actually is. Each transition seems to work like clockwork and keeps the pace at a steady jog. This has the feel of a much larger production.
Cosplay involves dressing up as larger-than-life characters from pop culture, video games and comic books. In Kamikaze Cutesauce Cosplay Club, each of the three acts has an insane amount of Japanese cartoon and cultural references, as well as cross dressing and overtly sexual dancing.
The first act is meant to be saccharin sweet and starts with young schoolgirls texting to the cleverly made soundtrack of ringtones. All the while a jester-like geisha with tortured movements gracefully skirts around the stage. We break from reality where a prophet/cat puppet appears amongst books that flap their pages like birds flying around. The cat tells the unlikely heroine, a school girl named Cathy, that she must save the world with the help of her friends. The plot loosely weaves around her saving the day, and a fantastical romance with her teacher. There is little to no dialogue. When the cast does speak, they speak Japanese or something that sounds like it. At one point, the teacher, played by Kirk Thomsen, has a hilarious monologue where he speaks only the names of Japanese companies with such a fiery intensity that you'd believe that Japanese speakers would be in on a secret. Ending the first act is a big fight scene between Cathy and all her friends trying to attack a monster.
The second act consists of at least four fight scenes between many of the cast members interspersed with the predictably overworked business man moving between numbness and exhaustion. The artfully sensual Jenni Reinke as geisha, does an umbrella dance, piercing the audience with her eyes. At a moment's notice, the umbrella becomes a roulette wheel and the actors all light up with money in their hands. There is a poignant scene where Kenada, played by Andrew Parchman commits harakiri, a ritual suicide while the others continue to pull their neckties tight as if doing the same.
It is a good mix of serious and fun when two women have a face off with a toy guitar and a violin and their conflicting interests. Susan, played by Knight is a ball of fire and the geisha seems to know just how to put out her flame with her incredibly delicate playing and sensibility. They have the audience's heart strings in their hands. Each performer is expressive in their own way and completely committed to the vision of Quasimondo Milwaukee Physical Theater.
The inventive use of props and imagery is well calculated. In the entirety of the show, there are dolls that sit onstage. Three puppeteers enter with a white headless, porcelain figure that is crawling on it's hands and knees sobbing. At points, the puppeteers break character and cry alongside. It is a beautiful picture as these black hooded figures bring the marionette to life. The teacher comes back and soothes not just the puppet, but also the puppeteers. They have a touching quartet as the marionette's face gets put onto the body and the puppet's face is a replica of Cathy the schoolgirl, played by the knockout Kathryn Cesarz. She crawls in as the marionette gets partnered around and at some moment, they replace the puppet with Cathy. The visual poetry of this moment is a completely unexpected turn. The puppet and mask work of Michael Petit takes the show to an entirely new level. This eclectic group of talent has a synergy that makes this New Yorker wonder if maybe a slower paced city allows for this type of avant garde dynamism to fuse and meld into a weirdly, fantastic show. I hope to see them in their next venture back to NYC.
(Kamikaze Cutesauce Cosplay Club plays at VENUE #5: The Celebration Of Whimsy, 21 Clinton St., through August 30, 2015. Performances are Thu 8/27 at 9:15; Fri 8/28 at 2; Sat 8/29 at 9; and Sun 8/30 at 2. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit thequasimondo.com.)