By Andrew Andrews
- Costumes: From the Princess Lolita outfits worn by the salary man’s daughters, to the goat costumes in the forest and even the everyday wear, the costume design is perfect. Even though three of the actors perform multiple roles, the clothing was sufficiently distinct to avoid any confusion.
- Scenery: Although the same set is used for multiple scenes, its whimsical appearance lends an abstract background to the action. And when the walls are finally moved for Chapter 2, the forest looks like a collaboration between Senga Nengudi and Yayoi Kusama.
- Tech: The sound, lighting, smoke machines and even the air conditioning are expertly synchronized to the scene, especially invoking the atmosphere of the forest.
- Clichés: The script seems to employ every archetype and stereotype about Japanese culture from a critical perspective, condemning conformity and hypersexualization in particular.
- Portrayals: Especially considering the absurdity of the roles and the critical intent, the actors are well-cast and play their parts to perfection.
It’s only fair to mention that this production isn’t flawless: the playwright’s interruption of the fantasy to psychoanalyze the relationship with their mother and their shared background feels like a comedian explaining a joke before delivering the punchline.
As for comfort: despite some wasted space, the seats in ART/New York’s Mezzanine Theatre can be a little crowded, depending on who’s next to you. And avoid sitting in the second row, as it’s the only one not raised above the row before it, which can lead to an obstructed view of some critical moments in the show.
If you’ve spent any time in Japan or have Japanese ancestry, you’ll probably appreciate the social commentary here more than the average attendee… but anyone who enjoys experimental theatre will surely admire the originality and expressionism of Suicide Forest.
Andrew Andrews attended Suicide Forest at A.R.T./New York Theatres Mezzanine Theatre in New York on Wednesday, March 4, 2020 @ 8:00pm to write this review.