When Captain James Anderson declares that it is "America's job to protect the free world," he isn't referring to the advent of the U.S. war against terrorism. Anderson is not one of the numerous military analysts who have frequented the 24-hour news networks since those dreadful moments on September 11th. In actuality, Anderson is one of several very dynamic characters in A.R. Gurney's Far East.
Currently playing at the Studio Theatre, a mere five miles away from the wreckage at the Pentagon, Far East is eerily relevant now, when the nation is dealing with racial issues and impending war. However, this play is set in 1954 rather than 2001. And the topic of the day is interracial romance and Communism in the Far East, instead of the plight of Muslim-Americans and terrorist attacks.
Although Far East touches on a variety of issues, ultimately this play is about coming to terms with who we are and what we leave behind when we journey outside the comfortable surroundings of home. Gurney conveys this conflict beautifully through sharp dialogue and carefully constructed plot. Far East could have very easily turned into another hackneyed Madame Butterfly knockoff. Fortunately, Gurney manages to avoid this trap.
The Studio's interpretation of this play is simplistic yet very effective. Just as a gifted painter would create the perfect blend of shadow and light, Joy Zinoman's direction provides a delicate balance between East and West. Using elements from both Japanese and American theater, Ms. Zinoman paints a compelling portrait.
Just as compelling are the performances delivered by an incredibly strong cast. Making her debut at the Studio Theatre, Mia Whang is extraordinary as the Reader as well as a multitude of other characters. Additionally, Rick Foucheux's exceptional portrayal of the sardonic yet engaging Captain James Anderson is so effective that he virtually owns the stage each time he appears. Portraying Julia Anderson, Elizabeth Long is outstanding as the captain's charismatic wife. Another strong talent, Matthew Montelongo, gives an amusing and poignant performance as Lieutenant Sparky Watts. Finally, Patrick Moltane's standout portrayal of the art-loving Bob Munger is heartrending.
Far East may hit a little too close to home for some people, bringing forth a host of emotions from the distant or the not-so-distant past. However, this is a wonderfully crafted piece that should not be dismissed. Although it is an emotional voyage, an excursion to the Far East is definitely a journey worth taking.
The Studio Theatre