This play takes viewers back to the 1940s, when the shock of Pearl Harbor led many on the West Coast to suspect their Japanese-American neighbors. The response was swift.
“They arrested Mr. Shirasaki, on Agate Point. They were worried about the radio transmitter there. They took the Shirasaki’s radio, and the camera, and the telephone.”
Families were given a few days notice, then shipped off to Manzanar, Tule Lake and other isolated camps, where they remained for years. And after the war, some internees returned home to find they had nothing left.
“You sold our land! You sold our land out from under us! You took advantage of the fact that we were gone!!”
“Get out of here!”
This play tells several stories, closely linked. One is a tragic romance involving a Japanese-American girl and a Caucasian guy, whose relationship is shredded by politics and war. Another involves a stoic Japanese-American fisherman accused of killing a White fisherman while at sea.
There are also lighter moments in this serious play. One scene involves a bride and groom on their wedding night in a crowded camp. Woolly blankets are hung from the rafters around their bed, giving the illusion of privacy.
Packing a love story, a murder trial and the internment experience – all drawing on racial tension -- into a single evening of theater is a tall order. But director Kevin McKeon gets the gears to mesh, making you feel like you were living through the 40s yourself. He even brings out glimpses of the better side of human nature, as characters see past the racial stereotyping, and fear gives way understanding – perhaps this production’s greatest accomplishment.
“Snow Falling on Cedars” continues through April 10th at the Nevada Theater in Nevada City.