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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 6 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 36
To bomb or not to bomb? - Hit and Run Productions follows the road not taken in 1945
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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To bomb or not to bomb? - Hit and Run Productions follows the road not taken in 1945

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

THE REALM OF WHISPERING GHOSTS: IF TRUMAN MET EINSTEIN
HIT AND RUN PRODUCTIONS
(at Bathhouse Theater)
Through September 15


If President Harry Truman had met with Albert Einstein before he dropped the A-bombs on Japan, would Einstein have dissuaded him from doing so? This 'what-if' is the generating idea behind the new play, The Realm of Whispering Ghosts: If Truman Met Einstein. The play explores the pressures felt by this accidental president (as vice president, he stepped in when Franklin Roosevelt died) to end the war with Japan, while Japanese generals and cultural misunderstandings made it almost impossible not to use the bomb.

The play thoughtfully explores both sides of the issue using a pair of ghosts in Bardo - a kind of purgatory in Tibetan Buddhist tradition where souls wait to be reincarnated. Tomiko (Mimi Katano), a young Japanese woman who died in the nuking of Hiroshima, meets again with Frank (Brandon Marino), an American soldier who ended up becoming a prisoner of war, and then grew old with a family of his own. But Frank has never lost his connective thread with Tomiko, and they are drawn together again in the afterlife.

Unbound as they are from earthly time and space, their quest is to try to change history by whispering to the president and his generals in an attempt to influence the decisions that led to the A-bomb being used for the very first time in war. Their hope is that getting scientists to talk to politicians will help the latter understand the grave danger to the entire world that atomic weapons present.

MASKED MARVELS
The production is very deliberate and feels, in presentation, kind of like a Japanese tea service. Each scene is set precisely by actor/stagehands dressed in black, with black veiled faces. Scenery by Bill Forrester is minimal, and Pepper Kaminoff's beautiful masks are used to great effect. Costumes by Candace Frank have a well-researched air even to the fabrics used. Restrained (if a bit dark) lighting is provided by Rick Paulsen, and original music is composed by Theodore Deacon.

Arne Zaslove directs, continuing his resurgent presence on the local theater scene, and in fact, the production is in the Bathhouse, where he produced his most talked-about plays more than a decade ago. The writer is said to be K.C. Brown, who has written a number of plays and is more commonly known these days as Claire Zaslove.

The cast is full of veteran stage actors from our area, including Dennis Bateman (Truman), Stephan Weyte (Einstein), Gordon Coffey (James Byrnes), James Patrick (Henry Stimson) and Greg Michaels (Gen. Marshall). The Japanese rulers are represented by Narea Kang (Prime Minister Suzuki), Cathy Vu (Marquis Kido), and Rachel Rene (Gen. Anami). Bateman and Weyte are particularly riveting in their roles and in the mythical meeting that the ghosts successfully engineer.

One of the aspects of the play that must be positively noted is that each side of the conflict is made clear, including the different lives and opinions and positions of the young man and woman at the heart of the desire to change history. Each recognizes that if history is changed, fundamental pieces of their own lives might change as well. Not knowing how it turns out, that is indeed a scary thought. For more information, go to www.brownpapertickets.com/event/391493 or call 1-800-838-3006.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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