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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 23, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 08
Seattle Children's presents The Little Prince and The Journal of Ben Uchida
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Seattle Children's presents The Little Prince and The Journal of Ben Uchida

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

THE LITTLE PRINCE
SEATTLE CHILDREN'S THEATRE
Through March 4

THE JOURNAL OF BEN UCHIDA: CITIZEN 13559
SEATTLE CHILDREN'S THEATRE
Through March 4


Two wonderful shows are going on at Seattle Children's Theatre this month and they are very different from each other. The Little Prince is of course based on the well-loved children's classic and has an interesting choice of casts. The book is written with all male characters except for The Rose, who is very (stereotypically) female. The play casts women for all the roles except for The Aviator (played charmingly by Lamar Legend). The Prince, himself, is embodied by elfin Khanh Doan, who embodies the offhand naiveté and quizzicalness of the role. The rest of the cast plays multiple roles in wonderful costumes by Yao Chen and includes Dedra Woods, Anne Allgood, and Sydney Andrews.

With gorgeous projections (by L.B. Morse) on a desert set by Carey Wong, this handsome production is directed by new artistic director Courtney Sale. It's geared toward ages 6 and up. It will help you recall, 'It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.'

The other play is by lauded playwright Naomi Iizuka, who adapted The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp by Barry Denenberg. Ben (Mikko Juan) is a young American teen, growing up in 1940 San Francisco. His Japanese immigrant dad and mom (Ray Tagavilla and Annie Yim) have embraced their new country and his dad is an optometrist with a small shop.

Ben tells us of a birthday present his dad gives him, a journal for him to write everything down in. Everything starts out very normal until suddenly Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. Then everything changes for his family. He and his sister, Naomi (Mi Kang), and their parents must suddenly pack everything into one suitcase each, find a way to sell everything they can, and are taken on a mysterious trip far away to a camp in Mirror Lake.

But clearly, this camp is not for summer fun, and there are guards and barbed wire. Ben and his sister ask unanswerable questions of their parents. 'Why is this happening? We didn't do anything wrong.'

This somber tale focuses on Americans of Japanese descent. They were incarcerated. Jailed. We use the term 'internment camp' but for Americans kept against their will with no criminal history or offense, it was incarceration.

While this short (hour-long) play is presented in a children's theater, it is not suitable for smaller children who can't understand the grays and difficulties of adult decisions. It's appropriate for sophisticated young folk from about age 10 or so to 110.

Though the father tries to take care of his family, he, too cannot understand why this is happening and he is powerless to stop it. Tagavilla presents us with a relentlessly positive man who always tries to see the glass half full, but he has no way to cope with this dramatic circumstance that befalls his family. There is no positive thing to say.

Conner Neddersen and Brenda Joyner play all the 'wipipo' (POC slang for white people) and they do a good job on the ones that discriminate and the ones that try to help. There is a tiny subplot about a teacher (Joyner) and her dead husband (Neddersen) that distracts and may accurately reflect the book, but doesn't much move the story along except to say that not all white people thought the same way at that time.

Director Desdemona Chiang keeps things simple and the character emotions in check. As she does so, the audience is left to cope with their emotions. Carey Wong does this set, too (prolific man) and the sliding panels change the set in an instant, but also reflect the Japanese building style of sliding walls.

Bring your teens and tweens to see this show and learn some uncomfortable history. It's excellently done and important to remember.

For more information, go to www.sct.org or call 206-441-3322.

Discuss your opinions with SGNCritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters. More articles can be found at MiryamsTheaterMusings.blogspot.com.

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