Love them or have issues with them, you just cannot ignore James Duruz ’03 and Scott Kirschenbaum ’03.
The duo’s current rap musical, “Symphony’s Amiss,” is their third, including their spring 2002 “Kowtow Rhapsody” and its follow-up musical by the same name performed last fall. This time around, Kirschenbaum and Duruz have more somber songs to sing. “Symphony’s Amiss” is a political call to spiritual arms, and one that resonates as loudly as Scott Kirschenbaum’s passion-filled rhythms.
In an auditorium filled with hanging musical instruments, the audience becomes a symphony for Kirschenbaum to conduct. Both supported and led by the backbeat of Duruz’s innovative musical stylings, the show is both cacophonous and soothing.
Fittingly, Duruz opens the show apparently lying down “dead” in a chalk drawing — and then lights a cigarette, as if to signify the duality ever-present in the duo’s frenzied tales: live life and take risks.
“Symphony” deals with topics from pedicures to homosexuality, all in the economical span of an hour and 15 minutes. How do they do this? With irony intact.
When Kirschenbaum proclaims “I don’t want you/to be scared of me” from a dark corner at the back of the auditorium, it is easy to question his sincerity — he is pretty damn scary. But as the musical unfolds, Kirshenbaum and Duruz’s frothy form of post-modern spiritual message emerges and the menacing tone recedes.
Bouncing and dancing his way through profound and hilarious lyrics, Kirschenbaum embodies both a hip-hop rapper and a buddhist monk. When his piercing blue eyes lock onto yours, you cannot help but listen to his words. The audience begins to feel that, Kirschenbaum and Duruz themselves might be genuinely “on the verge of a nervous breakthrough,” as Kirschenbaum raps.
Though enlightening, “Symphony” is not a performance for the faint-hearted. Kirschenbaum’s razor-sharp lyrics — “When bullets start to fly/Proud men start to die” — and Duruz’s startlingly honest commentary on his sexuality — the whole experience is somewhere between sublimely frightening and frighteningly sublime.
When Kirschenbaum proclaims “I don’t prophesy/What I don’t believe,” the audience wants to believe him. When he screams “We don’t make theater/Or fake theater/We break theater,” we really do believe him.
And that is where the true genius of Duruz and Kirschenbaum emerges: in their seemingly paradoxical yet strangely simple art. They manage to make you believe that, despite war and strife, love may actually have a chance.
In the words of Kirschenbaum himself, “You need [him] like a bullet to the head/Like a bullet to the heart/You need him.” In a world of chaos, Kirschenbaum and Duruz have the only answer: believe in humanity.