Glenn Conner Johnson’s reconstruction of the life and persecution of Iva Toguri (Momo Yashima) has the makings of epic-style political theater but falls flat in this production directed by Johnson. Toguri was the Los Angeles Nisei woman who, in her mid-20s, traveled to Japan just months before Pearl Harbor. Refusing to renounce her American citizenship once hostilities began, she found clerical work at Radio Tokyo, eventually becoming one of 20 English-language announcers who were collectively dubbed Tokyo Rose by American troops. Johnson employs taiko drumming, a Kabuki tiger head dress and an ensemble-driven presentation to explain Toguri’s actions and fate. Yet nearly every other scene is explained by a narrator (Ralph Brannen) before it unfolds – making the 70-minute Act 1 cry out for trims. There’s also the confusing appearance of a malevolent spirit-character named Tokyo Rose the Legend (Yashima), who vampishly slinks onstage to create trouble for Toguri. Worse, Yashima is easily twice as old as Toguri was when she began her broadcasts, which removes the character’s aura of youthful naiveté that Johnson’s script relies upon. (The age difference might have worked had the play opened in modern times with Toguri reflecting on the past.) The play finds its focus during Toguri’s 1949 treason trial that was stoked by Hearst yellow journalism and Walter Winchell’s (Johnson) xenophobic rants, against an ever-present background of American racism
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Feb. 29. Continues through March 23, 2008

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