Fear in the Western World

Target Margin Theater Doxsee Theater, Brooklyn

Does guns + puppets = horror or humor?

By Andrew Andrews

Maria Camia, Nikki Calonge and David Commander perform Fear in the Western World at The Doxsee Target Margin Theater in Sunset Park. Original photos by Maria Baranova.

A father, mother and daughter have just moved into a gated community, only to learn that their house is haunted.

The home strangely features a vending machine that offers food, clothing and a wide selection of firearms for purchase.

When the daughter is abducted by evil spirits, the parents give chase through the mysterious catacombs beneath the property, where they encounter strange beings who distract them from their mission.

Most of the characters are puppets with LCD faces resembling smart phones, and as the action unfolds on the stage, three large projection screens depict the story in the style of a first-person-shooter video game, with mom in the driver's seat.

The audience experiences both first-person and third-person perspectives of the performance.

The Exponential Festival is dedicated to experimental performances by emerging New York artists, and The Doxsee might become the new La Mama as more artists view South Brooklyn as the city’s hub for unappropriated counterculture.

I give this production an A+ in creativity for uniquely mashing today’s ubiquitous small-screen technology with the ancient art of puppetry.

Despite the subject matter, the plot is more absurdist humor than horror. Except for a few tense, shocking moments, the audience was mostly laughing, especially at the comments by the father.

The plot is a bit unpolished, and the story itself is cliché in its stereotypical portrayal of Mainland America’s conservative suburban values.

The production value reminds me a lot of the experiments that postmodern artists performed with home movie cameras in the 1960s, and even some school projects I produced using Super-8 film more than three decades ago.

In an era where everyone seems to use handheld screens to distract them from the physical world that surrounds us, what impressed me most about this performance is the way that the live action on the stage kept distracting me from the video screens, although it did leave me feeling like I was watching the taping of a television show instead of the program itself.

All in all, I’d call Fear in the Western World a wonderful concept, but the execution needs a lot of streamlining. Therefore, I believe this piece heralds the future of experimental theatre for the incoming decade of the 2020s.

Andrew Andrews attended Fear in the Western World at Target Margin Theater Doxsee Theater in Brooklyn on Thursday, January 2, 2020 @ 8:00pm to write this review.