Review: ‘All That Remains’
REVIEW BY RYAN SENAGA / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Remembrances for the 70th anniversary of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team continue with Kumu Kahua Theatre’s latest play, “All That Remains.”
The 442nd and the 100th Battalion were comprised entirely of Japanese-Americans, with a large bulk of the members from Hawaii. The play is set in the Vosges forest, where in October 1944, after 10 days of brutal combat liberating the French towns of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, the 442nd rescued the “Lost Battalion” from Nazi forces.
‘All That Remains’
Presented by Kumu Kahua Theatre
» Where: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.
25 years after World War II, a young man known only as the Traveler hikes up to the forest to seek a monument to the AJA soldiers on the border of France and Germany. His father was one of the men killed there and he seems to feel his visit will give him a sort of closure. Spirits of the dead military men soon visit him and tell him their story.
Playwright Mona Z. Smith uses these ghosts (inspired by Japanese-style Noh theatre) to flashback to Hawaii and show how the bravado-filled boy known as Cowboy manages to goad all of his other Japanese-American friends into joining the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Once enlisted, the group discovers “the haoles” think of them with the same disdain as they do Japanese from Japan. In a sense, they become, as one character puts it, “a bastard battalion” that must prove itself worthy not only of battle, but to be American.
Each actor goes for broke in his performance, especially since most of the cast have the burden of playing two or three minor characters in addition to each main one. Director Traci Mariano’s cues are clear and not confusing at all; a simple loud rap on a piece of wood, or the switching of hats, or the addition of eyeglasses, keeps the transformations simple and effective; within seconds, a member of the 442nd suddenly becomes a white FBI agent or an elderly parent, without even leaving the stage.
Chris Masato Doi (Cowboy) brings a sense of authority to his role as the leader of the pack, but he injects a quiet sense of doubt and fear as well. Shiro Kawai (Yoyo) plays a Japanese-American from Japan, and through extremely accented English makes us understand his character is all too intensely aware of what goes on around him.
Royce R. Okazaki plays Squirt and enthusiastically brings a much-needed sense of humor to the eventual despair that surrounds the troops.
The production is very spartan with minimal props and subtle lighting effects. Make sure all arms and legs are securely within your aisle seats though, because these soldiers continually come running, stomping and marching around you, making use of the theater’s in-the-round geography.
Some of the play’s experimental style can be jarring at times. The paranormal activity device in the narrative is treated a bit too casually within the story’s context at the beginning and it’s a little unclear how one significant character is killed. But perhaps these ambiguities add to the mystical Noh warrior vibe.
What does remain after watching “All That Remains” is a respectful tribute to — and also a grim vision of — what these men endured to support liberty and justice, as well as their heroic loyalty to one another and their country.