Regional Reviews: San Francisco
The Wind Cries Mary is a New Version of Hedda Gabler In The Turbulent '60s
The San Jose Repertory Theatre is currently presenting the world premiere of Philip Kan Gotanda's drama The Wind Cries Mary. The playwright has transformed one of theater's greatest characters, Hedda, from the cold landscape of 19th Century Norway to the turbulent times of 1968 at San Francisco State College. Hedda has now become Mary but the core of Ibsen's play is still there. There are protests against the American involvement in Vietnam on many campuses across the country and one of the biggest demonstrations is taking place at San Francisco State College. There is also a growing unrest with minority students seeking equal entitlement and representation. One of the main groups seeking change is the 'Oriental' or 'Asian-American.' Into this uneasiness comes Elko (Tess Lina), a Japanese American woman of immeasurable gifts and intelligence.
Elko and her dreary and conservative young sociologist, Raymond (Thomas Vincent Kelly), come to this college. He is seeking his first teaching profession in the sociology department of the school. Raymond is deeply in debt due to the extravagant tastes of his bride who wants everything first class. However, it looks like Raymond has the position in the bag until popular radical firebrand and author Miles Katayama (Stan Egi) gets the inside track to the job. Also, Miles is a former lover of Eiko, who tripped on LSD when both were students at the school. At that time Eiko was called Mary. Thrown into this mélange of characters are Rachel (Allison Sie), the current lover and "savior" of Miles, Dr. Nakada (Sab Shimono), a randy womanizer professor in the Economics Department of the school who is hot to trot with Eiko, and a motor mouth maiden aunt (Joy Carlin). The plot follows Ibsen's classic closely, even in the famous last scene.
The Wind Cries Mary realistically shows the conflict between society and individuals during the late '60s. The men are ready to fight for the rights of the Asian-Americans, but they are not going to share the limelight with the women - they still must stay at home and raise children. Eiko is an extremely intelligent woman who wants to be a good Western woman, but her Buddhist shrine in still in the center of her living room. Eiko is very manipulative and uses cold, devious acts to get what she wants for her weak husband and herself. Rachael is half Japanese, half white and as a child did not know what half she wished to be in adult life.
Broadway director Eric Simonson has achieved the full tragic impact of a Hedda with a great cast of actors. Tess Lina's portrayal of the heroine is very striking. She gives the impression of a woman who knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it. Thomas Vincent Kelly is very appealing as the weedy husband who idolizes his wife just a little too much. Stan Egi as the radical LSD author does goes over the top in some of the scenes; however, he gives a convincing performance. Allison Sie does a natural hippie perfectly with period perfect costumes to match. Sab Shimono, who has appeared in dozens of films, makes an arrogant, suave, sleazy but charming professor, who hits on Eiko many times. Joy Carlin is superb as the maiden aunt who loves to talk and talk (though, in the opening scene she talks just a little too much). However, it does establish her character.
The set is a very large Victorian house one would see in San Francisco with a second floor. It is well-detailed with a complete small kitchen to the rear. The music of the Rolling Stones, Country Joe and Jimi Hendrix intersperses with the action of the play.
The Wind Cries Mary runs through November 17th at the San Jose Repertory Theatre, 101 Paseo de San Antonio in San Jose. For tickets call 408-367-7255 or visit www.sjrep.com.
Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen from Verona, updated to the silent film days of Hollywood, opens on December 7.