7 (x1) Samurai

Pantomime master

Orlando Fringe, Orlando, Florida

From The Orlando Weekly, May 14, 2015

7 (x1) Samurai

Photo copyright David Gaines

Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is the story of brave warriors with limited resources avenging brutal injustices. Armed with nothing but his body, vocal chords, two Japanese masks, a black kimono and white face paint, David Gaines accomplishes a mission no less noble and astonishing, as he single-handedly vanquishes the demons of bad theatre and boring pantomime in just one hour.

In 7 (x1) Samurai, Gaines transforms the cinematic classic (which was later adapted into The Magnificent Seven) into a solitary symphony of spoofy silliness and, in well-timed bursts, surprising beauty. Not only does he play all the samurai and the main brigand who has terrorized the villagers, but he plays them simultaneously with a physicality that will leave even the best acrobat in awe.

Equally impressive is the almost total lack of dialogue; Gaines opts instead for a hilarious array of spoken sound effects, including fake Japanese words, mumbles, grunts, whistles and sighs. (His hilarious “bompedy-bompedy-bompedy” ranks up there with Monty Python’s “two empty halves of a coconut banging together” among iconic horse-galloping sounds.) It’s little wonder the show was voted “Best of the Fest” in its last appearance at Orlando Fringe, in 2009.

Gaines says that to compare his one-man show to the source material is akin to comparing Bugs Bunny waving a baton in front of a cartoon orchestra to a real maestro conducting a Wagner opera. Well, I love Bugs just as much as the next guy (and probably more), but that description might give you the impression that this production (which is directed by the performer’s wife, Susan Thompson-Gaines) is a pop-culture nicety. Make no mistake: This is fine art and a stellar example of a classically trained performer at the top of his craft. Admittedly, some of his characterizations could be a bit crisper, and a bit of the novelty wears thin just before the final battle scenes boost the energy again, but the list of performers who could do a better job with this material is miniscule indeed. Marcel Marceau and Charlie Chaplin perhaps.

 

7 (x1) Samurai
David Gaines – Arlington, Virginia
Venue: Orange
Length: 60 minutes
Rating: 7+
Price: $10 (+svc. charge)

 

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