Storyline: “Sam Shikaze, a smooth private eye, narrates his own story about what happened when he was hired to find the missing Cherry Blossom Queen. He is soon trapped in a web of racism and political intrigue that seems to lead back to the Hong Kong tongs. Chuck Chan is a lawyer who tried to help solve the case, while Nancy Wing is a beautiful reporter who is searching for a story. Captain Kadota, an old friend of Sam’s, offers his aid as a member of the police force, although Sam and he do not see eye-to-eye on politics.” – Wikipedia
We lucked out with front-row center seats next to two longstanding CenterStage supporters (husband and wife) who also support Harlequin Theatre in Olympia. We chatted over our favorite production in Olympia and Federal Way.
Set in the early 1970s, the stage was nicely laid out featuring a small Japanese food bar on the left and the detective office of Sam Shikaze (Tim Takechi), which Sam kind of shares with his attorney partner Chuck Chan (Van Lang Pham). The food bar features Japanese food and is run by Rosie (Aya Hashiguchi Clark) who is Sam’s mother. Aya is actually Tim’s mother in real life. We saw them perform together in Waltz of the Toreadors at Dukesbay Productions in Tacoma. Aya and her husband Randy strive with every production at Dukesbay to incorporate people of color and different backgrounds into each play they produce.
Yellow Fever illustrates the on-going concern and dislike and fear of many non-whites by European whites. Like America, Canada treated Japanese related citizens poorly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Four or five members of the small cast debuted at CenterStage in this production. Sam addresses the audience in a film noir delivery, not unlike the old TV show “Dragnet” but with more much more expression. Accolades to Props Designer Robin Macartney. She is also the resident set designer at Theatre Off Jackson where we recently saw a quality production of Cabaret. Burton Yuen is the scenic designer and comes through with a very lived in and comfortable setting, not unlike his design for CenterStage’s 1940’s Radio Christmas Carol.
Director Mimi Katano, a native of Tokyo has done cultural work for two of our favorite cultural houses in Seattle: Seattle Children’s Museum and Book-It Repertory Theatre. She also co-wrote Justice at War, about the Japanese-American Internment. The Canadian treatment of Japanese citizens/residents was similar to the American treatment: catastrophic loss of homes, businesses, and most of their belongings and almost their identity.
Kudos for the fight scenes. Graham Arthur Blair plays Sgt. Mackenzie. Think of the character as a contemptuous and mean-spirited Barney Fife . . . with a loaded gun. Blair pulls it off nicely.
It was a tough life in Canada during the 1970s . . . we see three of our characters resting: Tim Takechi as Sam Shikaze (left), Annamaria Guerzon as Nancy Wing (center), and Daniel J. Lacker as Superintendent Jameson (right).
Annamaria Guerzon (She/They) does a nice job as a reporter and perhaps love interest. She’s a perky Nancy Wing and she’s anxious to discover the truth as well as see her by-line on a major news event . . . and perhaps she has her eye set on Sam. She was also a member of the cast of the Dukesbay production of God Said This with Aya Clark.
Daniel J. Lacker plays the bigoted Superintendent Jameson, a rabble rouser with weapons of mindless fear, poison and hatred. He is the scariest character because he seems so real and so current and yet it’s the same message that has probably been used for thousands and thousands of years as he pushes hatred of anyone not white like him.
Downstairs from the detective’s office is home away from home at Rosie’s café (Rosie – Aya Hashiguchi Clark) seen here with Chuck Chan (Van Lang Pham) and Nancy Wing (Annamaria Guerzon). We find friendship and clues at this cozy place of welcome.
Nancy Wing (Annamaria Guerzon), like a good reporter she goes after the news and the truth along with a little danger.
At the end of the day or just another morning, there is nothing like a sip of tea and friendship to keep you warm.