"Excellent acting, a tight story, clever sets and crisp direction by MIKE RADEMAEKERS all combine to bring a captivating and winning evening, where you remember how plays were done in "the good old days".
It's a safe bet that not many readers will remember the movie back in the mid '50's where Marlon Brando played the lead character - an Okinawan named Sakini, in a casting faux pas rivaling the bulkheads of the Titanic. That's lucky for them.
Thankfully, Sakini is now being played by Keisuke Hoashi in The Fire Rose production playing at the Secret Rose Theatre in the NOHO district.
Along with Hoashi, Kaz Mata-Mura as Lotus Blossom and Evan Andes as Captain Fisby create a delightful presentation of the Pulitzer winning play by John Patrick which takes places in the post World War II island of Okinawa.
Poking fun at the US Army for its condescending efforts to "help" the people, the play begins with blustering Col. Wainwright Purdy III, (Tony Matthews) assigning bumbling Captain Fisby to the village of Tobiki to build a pentagon shaped school, and lecture on democracy in an effort to "civilize" the population. Sakini is assigned to Fisby as an interpreter, but neither realizes that he is as clever and wily as he is charming and the plans for democracy and the school building quickly take an unexpected turn.
When the beautiful geisha Lotus Blossom is presented to Fisby as a gift from the villagers, the situation takes a whole new rub. Fisby protests, but not so much that Lotus Blossom can't change his mind, and soon he's wandering around in a bath robe passing it off as a kimono. Then Captain McLean (Josh T Ryan) is sent to investigate the incomplete reports, but he quickly falls prey to the simple life style. They soon discover a secret brandy made by the villagers and develop an elaborate marketing scheme that brings unprecendeted wealth to the village. Fisby builds them a tea house instead of a school and soon all the women are taking geisha lessons from Lotus Blossom, while McLean experiments with horticulture.
The entire story is built on the premise that the bumbling Americans are no match for the clever natives, who always maneuver the Captain to do what they want, making him think he's doing what he wants. Even today that's not too much of a stretch, and when the big Army brass finally decide to stop Fisby and McLean from their entrepreneurial efforts, you really see why the term "Army Intelligence" is a true oxymoron. As usual, there is a happy ending, cleverly contrived, and they even throw in a little melodrama when the Captain is forced to leave.
Most of the cast is Asian, speaking Japanese throughtout the story, but if you don't "habla - - " don't worry. Sakini translates just enough to let you in on the good stuff, and there's a whole lot of good stuff here. Excellent acting, a tight story, clever sets and crisp direction by Mike Rademaekers all combine to bring a captivating and winning evening, where you remember how plays were done in "the good old days".
Other cast members include Ian Shen (alternating as Sakini), Patrick Parins, Paul Denniston (alternating as Capt. Fisby), Kumie Shirasaki, Catherine Lee, Sara Colon, Vic Miyahara, Harry Du Young, Paul Huang and Ren Urano (alternating as Mr. Sumata), Zuke Oshiro, Jennifer Chu alternating with Kayo (as Higa Jiga), Howard Fong, and Paul Lirette, alternating as Captain McLean.
It's a great way to start the New Year, and the play will run through January 19, 2003. Call (818) 623-4291 for information and reservations.