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Review: ‘Fishing’ is excellent
BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Ed Sakamoto has written plays on many different subjects over the years. Kumu Kahua’s world premiere production of his newest work, “Fishing for Wives” reminds us that he has a masterful command of comedy. With Kumu Kahua Artistic Director Harry Wong III directing a quartet of exceptional actors, Sakamoto’s “Fishing” is excellent theater.
‘Fishing For Wives’
Presented by Kumu Kahua Theatre
» Where: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.
The year is 1913. The place is the island of Hawaii. Takeo Nishi, a Japanese immigrant fisherman whose face is described at various times as resembling the rear end of an ox, the rear end of a donkey, or perhaps the face of toad, has been unable to persuade a woman to come from Japan as his “picture bride.” One look at his picture and they break off the engagement.
Desperate to marry, Nishi sends a prospective bride a photo of his fishing partner, handsome Tsutomu Aoki, instead.
When Nishi’s bride, Shizuko Yamamoto, arrives she is deeply in love with the man whose picture she has treasured through the long and difficult journey, and instantly repulsed by the stranger who says that he — not the man in the picture — is her actual husband. She responds to Nishi’s deception by refusing to have sex with him, saying that she has “female problems,” while simultaneously doing everything she can to win Aoki’s heart and persuade him to marry her instead.
The immediate problem with that is that Aoki has no interest in marrying anyone and is content to be a bachelor — despite the fact that his father in Japan keeps arranging “picture bride” marriages for him.
Michelle Hunter (Shizuko Yamamoto Nishi) steals this award-worthy production with her animated and thoroughly appealing performance as the unwilling victim of Nishi’s deception. Hunter’s large, expressive eyes and animated features convey a kaleidoscope of emotions. Under normal circumstances it would be natural to sympathize with a good-natured and well-intentioned man whose wife refuses him the most basic marital relationship, but given that Nishi misled Shizuko by sending Aoki’s picture it seems natural to sympathize with her instead.
Wherever one’s sympathies fall, Hunter is an outstanding heroine — or, perhaps, comic anti-heroine. There are times its easy to imagine a cartoon “thought balloon” over her head reading “Curses! Foiled Again” when something prevents Shizuko from reaching her objective.
Daniel A. Nishida (Nishi) gives a strong comic performance as the hapless man who pays dearly for an ill-considered act. Justin Fragiao (Aoki) brings subtle shadings as moments of broad comedy as well to his portrayal of a complex man with conflicting emotions — Aoki must surely see that Shizuko, the wife of his best friend, wants to be a perfect wife for him.
Britni “Lolli” Keltz plays three other women who come into the story. Each woman is a distinctly different character type. Keltz plays each one with excellent comic results.
Two sex scenes — both played for laughs — are hilarious as well.
The performers’ work is enhanced by the contributions of the tech crew. Friston Ho‘okano (Costume and Hair/Makeup Design) creates three very different looks for Keltz’s three roles. He also does very well by Hunter; she looks adorable throughout.
Ted Uratani’s scenic painting gives the performance area the look of traditional Japanese art. Original music by Doris Mugiishi and the late Masakichi Kaneko further enhances the cultural ambiance.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.