Japanese Ghost Stories Come to Life in Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin

East West Players and Rogue Artists Ensemble have created Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin, a multimedia, site-specific immersive experience into Japanese ghost stories.

The Premise

I received a letter from Mori Storage requesting my help in finding the owner, Kana Mori. She had been working on the 5th and 6th floors of the facility and disappeared six weeks ago. In her absence, the workers have been hearing voices in the walls and the lights have been malfunctioning. Is Kana trapped and calling for help? It’s my (and the other audience members) job to help find out and try to bring her back safely.

The Experience

My fellow audience members and I were escorted into Kana’s office, where it was clear she had been struck by madness. Papers and trinkets and bones lined the walls and desks, seemingly without connection. The TV monitors flickered as we waited, not knowing what was to happen. The lights shorted out and the phone on the desk rings, making us all jump. We answer and pass the phone to one another as directed, getting instructions from the ghostly voice on the other end of the line. Suddenly, the elevator arrives. The doors slide open and we begin our journey to save Kana.

When we arrived at the 5th floor, our group was split and led to different rooms. My group found itself sitting at the bottom of a well (an amazing set!), watching a story unfold via puppetry and live actors. It was a sad tale of abuse and revenge, culminating in quite a creative jump scare in the novel space. As we squirmed in our seats, we were quickly ushered out of the room by a hooded woman: Kana.

Joining back with the rest of our group from the other room, Kana explains that a shape-shifting fox named Kitsune has been possessing her and preventing Kana from leaving. Kana needs our help to find the pieces needed to complete a ritual that will ban Kitsune from Kana’s body and set herself free. From here, Kana (impressively played by Tane Kawasaki) serves as our tormented guide between rooms, where we often found ourselves being stalked by fox-like creatures.

Each room we entered, some very creatively decorated, told a different Japanese ghost story, all focusing on the idea of revenge. These vignettes were brought to life through the use of puppetry, live actors, animation and audio. One, in particular, found the group outside a large cardboard box enclosure looking in as voyeurs, watching the actor in front of animation and shadows.

There was another area where we were free to roam as we pleased through several different rooms, each with its own decor and storyteller. I was told later that each storyteller shares something different based on what they think the audience in the room would like to hear. No one will have the same experience. We also got to be interactive several times within this group of peaceful, introspective rooms.

The experience ramps up the intensity in a blinding white room filled with video effects and a bombardment of audio and energetic actors. This story stood out as not fitting with the rest, as it was more contemporary and L.A.-based. It was visually stunning, especially with the props and set pieces, but I was confused as to what the story was about and why it was so much different than the others.

I was back on board after Kana led us to where the ritual would take place. In an amazing ending I don’t want to spoil, we watched as Kana fought Kitsune within herself, ending her struggle. Finally free, Kana guided us to the elevator, where we descended back into real life in the quiet darkness. Letting go of the vengeful spirits above, we were back in Kana’s littered office and escorted to the lobby to decompress.

The Takeaway

More immersive than some other events but mostly a promenade piece, Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin was absolutely amazing visually. I loved the use of different kinds of media to tell a story. The acting was great, as were some of the sets. I didn’t find the Kana story necessary as the vignettes were very rich themselves, and the shape-shifting fox could have been enough to unify the vignettes, but I was taken in by almost every moment. It was definitely one of the most creative theater pieces I’ve seen in Los Angeles.

Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin plays on select dates through November 5th.

Buy Tickets: https://www.rogueartists.org/kaidan-project/

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