Sonic Butoh

Performance troupe inkBoat stages a Kafka-esque nightmare that fuses Asian and Western theater styles

Blood marks the death march of the cataleptic soul in Cockroach, an Eastern variation on a Kafka-esque nightmare directed by local choreographer Shinichi Momo Koga for multidisciplinary performance troupe inkBoat. Haunted by veiled memories of regret and desire, a broken man refuses to go gentle into the night. The problem is he's arguably been dead his whole life. But unwilling to accept his fate, he tortures himself in his last moments with fragmented visions of his headless bride, whose longing for intimacy he could never match.

Warped limbs, exaggerated hand gestures, and anguished faces -- images inspired by Japanese butoh, the postwar avant-garde movement school that draws its power from the internal combustion of introspection -- make up the core of inkBoat's solos and partnering vignettes. Other fiery elements include a trio of screeching Furies who torment our fallen hero, mimicking his decay by dangling their own bloody tentacles from the wings of the stage.

Founded in 1994, inkBoat strives for what Koga calls "an alchemy of forms, creating relationships between Asian and Western movement, theater and music styles." In Cockroach, the abstract drama uses cinematic devices -- from still frames to slow motion to car-chase velocity -- and improvisational techniques derived from Koga's study of Action Theater to create a natural ebb and flow in the tension. A deeply percussive live soundtrack, echoing both the din of an industrial junkyard and the tuneful symphonic beats of 20th-century classical maven Iannis Xenakis, heightens the sense of unbearable sorrow.

A trio of taunting Furies embellishes Cockroach.
Marcus Lieberenz
A trio of taunting Furies embellishes Cockroach.


Wednesday through Saturday, Dec. 5-8, at 8 p.m.

Following the Friday and Saturday performances, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum will play a set of music

Admission is $15-18


Theater Artaud, 450 Florida (near 17th Street), S.F.

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Though it is largely a serious work, flashes of dark existentialist comedy emerge, for example, when the estranged wife slaps the broken man and when she erupts into a fit of absurd giddiness. But much like the unexpected humor in Kafka's stories, these events trigger a chuckle that fades into uneasiness, mirroring the dying man's uncomfortable metamorphosis into frog, lizard, snake, and insect. It is as if only devolution will save his empty soul.

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