Kimono at Off the Wall Theater | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Kimono at Off the Wall Theater

A potent movement-theater show explores predation and PTSD

Mark C. Thompson in Kimono
Mark C. Thompson in Kimono

Though it usually references the sufferings of soldiers, post-traumatic stress disorder is increasingly used to describe the impacts on victims of things like poverty and violent crime. In his new stage work, Kimono, Mark C. Thompson asks us to think about PTSD in terms of confronting the predators who cause it.

Kimono premieres at the intimate Carnegie Stages Theater courtesy of Off the Wall Productions and fireWALL Dance Theater. It’s a movement-theater work that combines mime, dance and spoken-word voiceover to tell the story of two victims of assault. Thompson, who created, directed and choreographed the show, portrays an unnamed man whom a gruesome attack has left with seemingly endless psychological torments; an artist, his lone solace is the creation of beautiful Japanese kimonos. In the course of the story, a writer (Moriah Ella Mason) is also preyed upon, and the two eventually form a relationship. In Thompson’s terms, they confront and “push back against” the predator. 

Thompson is well known on local stages, and his résumé in mime and movement theater reaches to Broadway and Europe. He’s a wonderfully expressive performer; at times, evoking pain on stage, he can seem to shrink before your eyes. Mason matches him with a vocabulary drawn more from contemporary dance. The cast is completed by Alexandra Bodnarchuk, who embodies the menacing (but also unnervingly sensual) predator, and Ryan Bergman, who portrays a third victim. (Bodnarchuk and Bergman also team up for an interpolated commedia dell’arte pantomime about a soldier and a poor man that comments on predation in economic terms.)

The action occurs on a bare stage, with strong lighting effects by Antonio Colaruotolo and set to evocative original music composed by David Bernabo. It’s a parable in pantomime that is visually cued by kimonos created by Linda Wallen and Kari Kramer, and masks made by Thompson himself.

The hour-long-show’s wordless action is strong enough that the intermittent voiceover sometimes feels heavy-handed. Kimono’s most potent element, meanwhile, is its depiction of people suffering alongside each other and not knowing it — until they realize their mutual plight and join forces to pursue its redress.

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