By Fran Syverson
It’s undoubtedly a generational thing. Those of us of a certain age remember all too well how and when we heard of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For a couple of other, younger generations, it’s just another ancient date to remember on a history test—like when Lincoln was shot. And this is why it’s good that Nothing is the Same will be performed for hundreds of fifth graders on weekday mornings through March 4. They will gain an appreciation of that era of history so distant from them, so well-remembered by others.
Even we who personally recall that “day of infamy,” however, don’t know what it was like for children in Hawaii to face the realities of war. One moment they are playing marbles in a churchyard, taunting each other as kids will do, bragging about their cat’s-eye marble. The next moment they hear the planes flying low over them; they duck at the sound of explosions, see billowing black smoke in the distance. They shake their fists; they yell dirty names at the enemy in the sky.
It is December 7, 1941, and “nothing is the same.”
One of the casualties of the war which is explored by playwright Y York is the close friendship of the four youngsters. Two are Korean, one Filipino and one Japanese. Suspicions sneak in, and three of them wonder: Can their Japanese friend possibly be a spy? Can he be trusted? As time passes, they learn the complex meanings of assimilation, allegiances, and patriotism.
The play is double-cast, with actors Melvin Biteng, Cedric “Ikaika” Jonathan, Kurt Kanazawa, Tristen Kim, Chloe Madriaga, Asia Ring, On Shiu and Yeng Kong Thao (listed alphabetically.)
Tim Dang directs Nothing is the Same. It is produced by Estelle Campbell, with Christian Lebano as co-producer. Kristin Bolinski is stage manager.
Stage design by Tesshi Nakagawa is minimalistic. A soft Hawaiian entire scene is painted across the stage as background. A waterfall effect and a river are imaginary, as are the children’s marbles. Derek Jones designed the lighting; Howard Ho the sound effects. Because the children speak Hawaiian Pidgin English, Kelsey James Kapono Chock was dialect consultant. A glossary of pidgin English is handed out, but never fear—you’ll understand the play very well, even if you don’t understand each word. Chock also handled the hula dancing that was used to good effect in portraying breezes and water.
Performances are scheduled weekday mornings for children who are bused in for field trips to experience live theater. All others may attend Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 matinees through March 4, and two Saturday nights, February 24 and March 3, at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $30 general, $27 seniors (65+), and $20 youth (20 and under). For reservations call 626-355-4318 or go to www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
The Sierra Madre Playhouse is at 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Free parking is nearby, as are several restaurants.