Despite its unnecessary length and too much exposition, Soul Samurai packs a punch. It is exciting theatre: gritty, alive, and dangerous; a queer love story filled with vampires, martial arts, and film.
Back after a successful run at the Vancouver Fringe Festival in 2017, Qui Nguyen’s Soul Samurai follows Dewdrop, a young samurai, who is seeking revenge for her dead girlfriend’s death. On the streets of a dystopian New York, she must track down the Long Tooth gang.
The production is all about the physicality. These performers are athletes first, and actors second. And while there are a few too many fight scenes, alongside the choreographed movement sequences with props and sexy dungeon scenes, the show is a successful physical feat.
Nathania Bernabe is the one to watch. Clearly well-trained in stage combat, she steals the show with her portrayal of Dewdrop. She is the type of character that you would want as a friend, because you certainly would not want to run into her in a back alley.
Dewdrop’s sidekick Cert, played by Lou Ticzon, is charming and hilarious. He offers a clownish perspective to the production, a different side to the dark vampire world that the rest of the play lives in.
Jackie T. Hanlin plays Dewdrop’s dead girlfriend Sally December and Lady Snowflake. While Lady Snowflake is quite riveting, her portrayal of Dewdrop’s lover comes across as a little possessive. Her monotone delivery feels less than genuine, making it difficult to believe that Dewdrop would want to avenge her death.
Soul Samurai blends live theatre with film segments, taking us into the back story of one of the main killers, Boss 2 K. While this mash-up feels strange at first, it is seamless, adding a new exciting layer.
The introduction of an amazing and hilarious animated sequence showing the blossoming love between Dewdrop and Sally may feel out-of-place, but it remains a highlight of the production.
While this production of Soul Samurai drags on too long, it is electric. The cast are incredibly talented physical performers, and the fight scenes are well choreographed. The actors are working hard, from head to toe, and their trust in each other is a testament to the group as a whole.
Soul Samurai by Qui Nguyen. Directed by Nathania Bernabe and Mayumi Yoshida, with fight directors Nathania Bernabe and Jackie T. Hanlin. An Affair of Honor production at Studio 1398 (1398 Cartwright Street, Vancouver) through December 2 . Visit theatrewire.com for tickets and information.