Reviewed by Momoko Murakami
"Fun for the whole family ... A true comedy, funny but comfortable, understandable by people at any level but packing a walloping punch. Go see it."
Who's the conqueror? Who's the conquered?
This question is deftly answered in a venerable comedy of unintended consequences, Teahouse of the August Moon. Captain Fisby (Craig Woolson) of the US Army of Occupation stationed in Tobiki Village, Okinawa, has been assigned the task of teaching Democracy to the people of the village in accordance with the manual prepared by his commanding officer, Colonel Purdy (Tony Matthews) called "Plan B."
Following a democratic concept of majority rules, the people of Tobiki Village opt for a teahouse or chaya instead of a pentagon shaped schoolhouse as ordered by Colonel Purdy.
The inevitable culture clash occurs when it is brought to the attention of Captain Fisby that all the ladies in the village want to learn to be geisha. Already comfortably clad in the bathrobe which takes the place of the yukata which is too short and geta, he is an easy study. The clash between him and Colonel Purdy, a conflict of adaptability and pliance against adamant inflexibility and strict interpretation of policy, is a masterpiece of two levels of comprehension attempting to communicate at each other culminating in the question of the appropriateness of the colonel's mother's patronage - a mother of misconstrued miscomprehension.
Prosperity returns to Tobiki village proving the validity of the free enterprise system of supply and demand. When the villagers can't sell their crafts to the American servicemen they drown their sorrows in the local potent potable, a sweet potato brandy which can be made in a matter of days. Aiding and abetting the enterprise with their marketing expertise, Captain Fisby and Captain McLean (Paul Lirette) a psychiatrist sent by Colonel Purdy to analyze Captain Fisby after a disquieting telephone conversation, develop the economy creating employment opportunities for all to earn money to spend in the Teahouse of the August Moon. The people of the village can hardly keep up with the demand from the clubs on the different bases. All the Occupation money comes to Tobiki village. 150,000¥ flow into Tobiki village each month.
The opening night festivities of the Teahouse of the August Moon are complete with a chochin parade led by adorable children of the village and a formal Japanese dance by Lotus Blossum (Kaz Matamura) under the direction of Madame Fujima Kansuma and complete with a dresser/assistant on stage. The guest of honor must entertain in return. Captain Fisby and Captain McLean lead a rousing rendition of "Deep in the Heart of Texas" ending in a free for all reel. Interesting that blue jeans can be seen when the front of Captain McLean's bathrobe/yukata flies open while dancing.
Acting as a go-between between the villagers and the Captain and a narrator of pithy observations during scene changes, Sakini (Keisuke Hoashi) brings the two cultures together into a tentative harmony of coexistence. A true Democracy prevails; each side wins something and understands something from a close encounter with an ethnic world.
Teahouse of the August Moon is fun for the whole family. It reveals the truth behind an enigma, but allows you to come to your own conclusions. A true comedy, funny but comfortable, understandable by people at any level but packing a walloping punch. Go see it.