Phillip Reid (Maneki Neko), Rae Venna (Paper Crane), Toni Rae Salmi (Natsuko) and Kramer Kwalick (George) in ‘American Spies and Other Homegrown Fables’ at The Hub Theatre (Photo by Ryan Maxwell).
When powerful outside forces threaten the Ishii’s comfortable suburban life, this Japanese-American family must sort through the material, cultural, and spiritual treasures that now endanger their safety to determine what they can keep, what they can hide, and what they must let go of forever.
“American Spies” takes place in the Ishii’s home in the hours between the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt’s declaration of war on Japan. Immigrants Natsuko (Toni Rae Salmi) and Tamihei (Dylan Arredondo), their native-born son, George (Kramer Kwalick), and the spirits who inhabit the Ishii home, Paper Crane (Rae Venna) and Maneki Neko (Phillip Reid) are forced to face a now precarious and unpredictable future in their adopted homeland.
…this world premiere production features a talented cast and a number of memorable performances.
Fear envelopes the larger community as well, demonstrated by the arrival of a police officer (Carolyn Kashner) who performs an illegal search of the Ishii’s home, and the next-door-neighbor, Diane (also Kashner) who begins a not-so-subtle inspection of the Ishii’s belongings to determine what she might take for herself once the family is gone.
Written by Sam Hamashima and directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer, this world premiere production features a talented cast and a number of memorable performances. Venna (Paper Crane) embodies wisdom and compassion in her interactions with Kwalick (George), who in turn is particularly adept at communicating his character’s sincerity and youthful naivete. Kashner delivers a superb rendering of the sociopathic neighbor Diane, and Reid’s (Maneki Neko) occasional humor provides the audience with welcome comic relief. Fellow Japanese immigrant Ms. Nakayama (KyoSin Kang) serves as the unwavering voice of outrage at the Ishii’s willingness to capitulate to the outside world’s fear and bigotry.
An intimate space, the NextStop Theatre is the ideal venue for the play’s domestic setting. JD Madsen (scenic designer) infuses the home with thoughtful Japanese touches, subtly enough to suggest that the people living there are blending their adopted American culture with “old country” traditions.
“American Spies” may be set in 1941, but the play’s message is timeless. By creating a space for us to meditate on the choices we make in the face of fear, audience members can ponder their own responses—past, present, and future—to a sometimes-menacing, always unpredictable world. What is expendable and what nonnegotiable? Do we hide in fear or remain steadfast in courage? Where do we stand and who stands with us?
Running Time: Approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes with no intermission.
“American Spies and Other Homegrown Fables” runs through August 4, 2019 at Next Stop Theatre Company, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA 20170. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.