Philip Kan Gotanda's play thoughtfully explores the intricacies of race relations, personal fulfillment, aging, and long-term relationships.
The play is set in 1986, in Gardena, California, where Sumi (Dian Kobayashi) asks her husband of 30 years, James (David Fonteno), to move out of their house so he can start dating her afresh. While the situation may sound like a wacky sit-com pilot, Gotanda uses it to explore the intricacies of race relations, personal fulfillment, aging, and long-term relationships. In a series of short scenes, the audience witnesses the couple's adjustment to their new situation, as well as the changes in their individual lives. Both Sumi and James are in their 60's, and trying to break out of established routines proves difficult. James is a retired army man, and finds renewed vigor teaching boxing to disadvantaged youths. Meanwhile, Sumi quits her unfulfilling job in order to go back to school full-time to study pottery.
The two characters often reminisce about their pasts, both shared and separate. Sometimes, they work in tandem to recall certain details, but there are also stories told which they never shared while they were still living together. By the play's end, the audience sees the couple's relationship starkly exposed, with some ugly truths revealed, as well as their deep, abiding love for one another.
Fonteno is excellent, endowing James with an easygoing manner and dynamic range of expression. Unfortunately, Kobayashi's performance is uneven. She pushes too hard in the first few scenes, indicating Sumi's emotional states. As the play progresses, the actress' work becomes more natural, and she has a good rapport with Fonteno.
Charlie Corcoran's attractive set has a delicate quality to it, which fits the fragile state of James and Sumi's relationship. Cliff Caruthers sound design incorporates jazzy piano tunes that nicely underscore the play's action. Unfortunately, major equipment problems at the performance I attended prevented me from determining the effectiveness of Kazuko Oguma's lighting design.