I’ve never visited Tokyo Disneyland, nor have I ever ingested psychedelic mushrooms. However, I’m pretty sure that if I were to try doing both simultaneously, it would be remarkably similar to the experience of seeing Are You Lovin’ It?
, the savagely surreal satire of fast-food capitalism from Japan’s Theater Gumbo.
A bowing business card-obsessed salaryman, a psychotic clown-faced corporate mascot, and a maid cafe escapee with an excreting infant, all inexplicably intersect in this eye-popping live-action anime, which both exploits and interrogates our Orientalist assumptions about Asian cultures. From a nominal storyline about selling WacDonalds burger franchises, Theater Gumbo cooks up a colorful stew of scatological slapstick, including seppuku
skipping rope, sword fights with super-sized french fries, and an interpretive dance about shit. At the same time the audience is uproariously ROTFL’ing at the racially-tinged routines, the show is cheerfully reflecting our own ugliest stereotypes right back at us, explicitly accusing Americans of binging and gorging on fake news and pink slime.
Such a bizarro blend of bravura physical comedy and pointed political parody would ordinarily boost a show straight to the top of my ‘Best of the Fest,’ list. While I get what Theater Gumbo is going for, they have a bad tendency of repeating a bit past its breaking point, making the pacing strangely sluggish despite the non-stop action. A choreographed routine with flashing lights is fun the first time we see it, but not so much after the third, and an extended audience participation segment about casting away unnecessary sin seemed uncomfortably like an encounter group.
Even if some of the bits grow boring or bothersome, there’s always the hope of some fresh bizarreness right around the corner, and Theater Gumbo certainly sticks the landing with a ‘must see it to believe it’ climactic set-piece. I may not have wholeheartedly loved Are You Lovin’ It
, but I am still thinkin’ about it days later.
Are You Lovin' It?
Theatre Group Gumbo
Osaka Osaka JAPAN
Saturday, May 25th 3:00 PM
Sunday, May 26th 7:30 PM