iKilL is a exhibition of excellent choreography performed by a well-drilled ensemble. Auteur director Izumi Ashizawa has gathered a team of talented young actors. Together, they seek to portray the horrors and consequences of violence and war in a series of short vignettes performed in the style of Japanese physical theater.
There are some brutally lovely images here. The night opens with a dying young soldier (Jason Glass) entering a haunted purgatory in a vignette as close to narrative as the show ever approaches. Some well executed puppetry of the skull makes for a properly creepy moment.
The blood drenched climax is drawn out just long enough to make an impact without over staying its welcome. But it’s all padded by a lot of (very well drilled) actors marching around in military uniforms and virgin-white clad women writhing in pain. Dialogue is generally limited to big exclamations like “Do not forgot us!” or accusations on the level of “What have you done!?”
But words aren’t really the point here. iKilL’s all about violent images, sound and fury. To Ashizawa’s credit, she has wrung every possible visual and auditory drop out of Fringe’s low-tech, stripped-down (and sweltering) Apothecary venue.
Ashizawa keeps her actors in shadow for much of the forty-minute run time, contrasted against the occasional sharp shock of blue or red. It’s all very creepy and mysterious and I dug it. The alternately mournful and martial score sets an appropriately aggressive tone. I will chalk up the unfortunate fact that the score sometimes drowned out the actors to opening night glitches. It’s Fringe. These things happen.
Ashizawa sells iKilL on big claims. Among them that the show “challenges a definition of logos” and “dissects a word iKilL from a linguistic point of view”. But this implies a much more nuanced discussion than what appears on stage. Despite however Ashizawa might obfuscate the simplicity of her project behind grad-school terminology, the show has a pretty generic message: War Is Bad.
Young men are stolen from their comfortable lives and pressed into militaristic conformity. Women are plundered as sexual trophies. Mothers mourn their lost daughters. It’s all very bleak, very precise, and very alienating. The big, stunning tableaux don’t make up for all the repetitive marching and rolling around that starts to wear a bit thin. Also, there’s a transition device involving a fan shown to the audience with supposedly important thematic information written on it about each scene that I was unfortunately unable to read from my second row seat.
So here’s where the five-star rating systems fails me. There’s a lot to recommend about iKill. The ensemble is well drilled. The movement unfailingly precise. The technical elements are solid. I will certainly not dispute Ashizawa’s talent as a choreographer.
If you are looking for exhibition of physical theater technique for its own sake, by all means snatch up a ticket. I can’t say I liked iKilL but I certainly respected it as a piece of craft.
iKilL has 4 more performances at the Apothecary, 1013 7th Street NW, Washington, DC.
Ryan rates this 3 out of 5
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