“SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS:” A DRAMATIC HAUNTING

 

BONNIE GOLDBERG

One of America’s less than distinguished hours is brought to haunting life in David Guterson’s “Snow Falling on Cedars” currently at the Hartford Stage until Sunday, February 13.  The bombing of Pearl Harbor sets a frightening juxtaposition between the Japanese living on the west coast and the Americans who now viewed them, their good neighbors, with suspicion and fear.

Branded as spies by the government, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 and this new adaptation by Kevin McKeon centers on an island off Puget Sound and the community living there.  A white fisherman Carl Heine Jr. has been found drowned and a Japanese Kabuo Miyamoto (Brian Tee) has been accused of his murder.

Years before the two families had been involved in a land deal, Kabuo’s father (Ron Nakahara) purchasing seven acres of strawberry fields from the Heines, despite the stern disapproval of Carl’s wife Etta (Kate Levy).  After Pearl Harbor, thousands of Japanese were sent to internment camps like Manzanar in California and Minidoka in Idaho and forced to abandon their homes and possessions.  Even though Mr. Miyamoto was only two payments from paying his debt, the land is lost to him.  Years later this fact is used to condemn his son Kabuo and is added to the evidence of his hatred against the Heine family and justification for his murder of Carl Heine Jr. (Mark Watson).

A reporter Ishmael Chambers (Dashiell Eaves), who had a close relationship with Kabuo’s wife Hatsue (Kimiye Corwin) before prejudice made it forbidden, holds the key to Kabuo’s guilt or innocence. Nels Gudmundsson (Tom Mardirosian) does his best to defend Kabuo but the evidence complied by the other fisherman, the prosecution and federal officers (Sean Cullen, Bill Doyle and Ted Koch)is steadily mounting.  Despite the odds against his acquittal, Hatsue’s mother (Mia Tagano) is solidly on Kabuo’s side while the victim’s wife (Alexandra Hoffman Beechko) is conflicted by the evidence.  Jeremy B. Cohen directs this gripping drama.

For tickets ($23-66), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday and selected Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.  Come early to see the photographs by Ansel Adams and Dorthea Lange that document this historical era.

 

Follow the action as its hopscotches from the past to the present as the tide of prejudice turns ugly and waves of distrust and animosity strike the shores.

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