SUICIDE FOREST Press


Read the full review  here .

Read the full review here.

The genius and courage of Kristine Haruna Lee and the entire team of SUICIDE FOREST at the Bushwick Starr (aka TEMPLE OF REVOLUTION) is NOT to be underestimated and refuses to be dismissed. It rises up with such ferocity, this exorcism... I will never forget this.

Anytime a white American reviewer steps to our work, I brace myself - hoping that they know how to deal with the gaps in their knowledge and they won’t just dismiss us. While she doesn’t, and we both came to “exorcism”, there’s a clear gap in how she understood how to process this. This wasn’t made for the white gaze. This is not only from the “Asian American as minority” standpoint. In the psyche of Kristine exists a complex “Japan” that manifests in spiraling nightmares of shame and humiliation that is all of our blood. It is nightmare upon nightmare that crack open the reality of sleepwalking through life. Wild and demented, yet utterly precise, Suicide Forest spoke to me in metaphors that I’m remembering from archival and ancient grief.

Spoiler alert. This is the moment today that I’m turning over and over again. The salary man kills the school girl when she rejects him. He strangles her, her body falls lifeless onto the furniture. And then his nightmare begins - a show specifically capturing humiliation features him getting fired by the CEO (in an animal mask head). He begs. Puts on a diaper. Prostrates himself to save his job. Manic Laughter from show hosts. Cruel and callous. And yet somehow, the school girl, having been masturbated to like a blow up doll, having been killed by him, is now awake - alive - moving inside this like a ghost. A ghost that is awake, alive, watching the proceedings without a trace of glee or satisfaction, but yes, compassion. There is no hunger for revenge, which to me, in this culture, is an extraordinary relief. “All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. All love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?”- Dhammapada
— Mei Ann Teo, Producing Artistic Director of Musical Theatre Factory
53055705_10156237057347411_3008379365395267584_o.jpg

more press + interviews

New York Times Review of Suicide Forest
Theatermania Review of Suicide Forest

Diep Tran and Jose Solís interview KHL on Suicide Forest Token Theatre Friends, American Theatre Magazine
Deepali Gupta interviews KHL & AO on Suicide Forest in Culturebot
Interview with KHL on Suicide Forest in New York Theatre Review
Interview with KHL on Suicide Forest in Brooklyn Paper

11 Plays and Musicals to Go See in N.Y.C. New York Times
15 Great Things to Do in New York Vulture

I am still tingling. You and Aya both have done such incredible warrior work here. Especially you and your body. It is otherworldly and shamanic what is possible for you to bring to the stage, and to ride the spirits every night is quite a labor. A beautiful and troubling and necessary one... There is so much to exchange. You are stardust. Thank you for holding this work/role with such grace, care, and rigor. The spell is cast.
— a message to Kristine from Nia Witherspoon, Artist
53405337_10156237057302411_3439637667241787392_o.jpg

Two of the best live performances in New York right now, Aoi Lee and Kristine Haruna Lee in Kristine’s “Suicide Forest” at the The Bushwick Starr (playing for two more weeks), are currently sharing a stage. They also happen to be in separate plays.

Or just separate planes? For most of the evening Kristine plays Azusa, a school girl traversing a menacingly bright 90s Tokyo landscape, while Aoi plays Mad Mad, a deity who dances on the edge of life and afterlife (and whose hushed, wry invocation ushers us into the play), and for a while it seems like never the two shall meet. Like a Supermarket Sweep of cultural tropes and racial stereotypes, “Suicide Forest” is both a bounty and an onslaught- it’s so dense that by the end of its first section (“This Side of the Mirror”) I almost felt a little queasy, like I’d gorged myself on an intricate and overrich meal. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly have another bite, the play “broke.” (and for those who have yet to catch, ahead be spoilers!)

Like Alice through the looking glass, Azusa tumbles into the play’s latter part, a “Reflection” of the titular forest. Stranded in a shadowed land where she no longer speaks the language, Azusa breaks into Kristine as performer to make a confession- she and her mother have always been separated by a language barrier, “like two ghosts living in the same house.” Into this separation wanders Mad Mad (or has the “Reflection” always been her domain?)- Aoi, Kristine’s mother. In a glorious review of a recent episode of “Bojack Horsemen,” Andrea Long Chu wrote, “the dead are never there when you want them to be. In this, every dead person is a parent.” Even with their characters fallen away, Aoi and Kristine onstage together for the first time radiated with the impossibility of the spirit and mortal worlds touching. If every dead person is like a parent, maybe some parents are also like ghosts, haunting us with the possibility of a closeness we’ll never be able to make flesh.

As the hollowness of Azusa’s misadventures gives way to the unbearably intimate chasm between Kristine and Aoi, “Suicide Forest” throbs with a want that makes it recognizable kin to Kristine’s other works. Straining to translate her mother’s favorite Japanese word for the Starr’s audience (and herself), Kristine as performer offers “It means ‘sky’, but it also means ‘emptiness’. But an emptiness where something is present.” Kristine’s got a hunger- she wants it all, even the bad things (especially the bad things?). But the wanting’s not a means to an end- it’s the point, at least for now. The holes in her work loom larger, big as the sky, but all the better to fill with the landscapes of her muscular words...
beautiful and treacherous forests- dense with emptiness, rich with lack-
to journey deeper and deeper into.
— Eric Prentice Shethar, Manager of Artistic Programs at Ars Nova