Innocent When You Dream

L.A. Theatre Works. Apr. 2024. 1:47 hrs. ISBN 9781682661833. $29.95. DRAMA
Playwright and actor Narasaki (The Mikado Project) offers a complex play about the intergenerational trauma wrought by the Japanese concentration camps in the U.S. during World War II. A full cast of narrators, led by Sab Shimono, Suzy Nakamura, and Greg Watanabe, take listeners to the bedside of octogenarian Dan Yamada as he recovers from a stroke and reflects on his life in and after the camps. Shimono’s voicing of Dan is tender and funny, revealing a layered picture of a tenacious, sometimes impulsive man who contemplates past blunders, misunderstandings, and revelations. Nakamura is brilliant as Dan’s exasperated daughter Joy, who fiercely advocates for her father while contending with mixed feelings about her upbringing. As Dan’s son, Merv, Watanabe proffers a gently measured performance, compassionate yet tempered by his own hurt and regret. Sound effects (beeps from the hospital machinery, music played softly at a bar) and Kurt Kanazawa’s affecting rendition of the song “Blue Skies” round out the production, lending ambiance and a sense of immediacy.
VERDICT Narasaki’s sensitive play about Japanese Americans seeking to understand the past resonates with humor and insight. An excellent pairing with Narasaki’s No-No Boy or Phillip Kan Gotanda’s Sisters Matsumoto, both available through L.A. Theatre Works.
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