Ghosts Of The 100th/442nd
At first glance, the stage looks sparse. A rock here, some rope netting and bamboo panels hanging here and there. But then the overhead lights fade and stage lights come on, casting eerie shadows and light play throughout the room, and then a clatter of stomping feet fills the space and men clad in military fatigues come charging in from every direction.
Seven decades after Japanese-American soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team garnered recognition for their valor, an expansive tribute by Kumu Kahua Theatre transports us to their World War II battlefront. With All That Remains, playwright Mona Z. Smith and director Traci Mariano bring 19 years of historical research to the stage, and Justin Fragiao and Daniel Sakimura’s respective set and lighting design lay on the magic to bring the heartbeat of that momentous era alive. There’s no imaginary “fourth wall” in this production, with an audience peering voyeuristically into a three-walled stage. Here, the audience surrounds center stage, but in the fluid construction of the space, where the actors walk behind us and enter from all sides, the viewer is a ghost from the future, a tree on the battleground, an invisible witness.
We follow a series of characters in a plethora of settings through a period of years, sometimes at rapid-fire pace, with actors seamlessly morphing between roles. It’s incredible how much ground All That Remains covers while staying 100 percent clear, utterly engaging and evenly paced. Portrayal of a troop of military guys could easily devolve into caricature, but these actors are fully fleshed out, each with a solid back-story. Most of the characters play multiple roles, and they’re so good that without changing makeup or costumes and without leaving the stage – basically, right before your eyes, with the sole power of their acting skills – they convincingly inhabit an entirely new persona. And the characters they evoke are wrought with dimension.
The action grips you from the first second and clutches at you with humor, shock and woe from the depth of the soul (note the dog-training exercises). You can’t help but tingle with excitement at the outright beauty of a piece of theater so well constructed.
the TICKET stub
When: Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. through April 28
Where: Kumu Kahua Theatre (46 Merchant St.)
More Info: 536-4441, kumukahua.org