Snow Falling on Cedars Review
Mar 22, 2011 12:00AM ● Published by Anonymous
The intensity of the story resonates with the audience right away, even with minimal set dressing and lack of costume changes. In fact, the minimalism serves to eliminate distractions and keep the viewer focused on the story, not on any type of flashy stagework. Lee sits stonefaced in a chair for much of the first act, while detective Art Moran, played by Neal Hemphill, works together a scenario in which the murder could have occurred. Owen Scott, playing the somewhat dimwitted deputy Abel Martinson steals the show during this part of the performance. He brings a bit of levity to the discussion of a death by his practiced overeagerness.
The plot then shifts to the more distance past, bringing the audience up to speed on the events that led to the characters being who they are. When Miyamoto was a young man, his father made a land deal with Heine’s father, which ended up falling by the wayside when the Miyamotos were sent away to an Internment Camp. The delightful Laura Kai Chen plays Hatsue, a local girl who ends up becoming Miyamoto’s wife.
As the performance nears the second act, we learn that Ishmael Chambers, played by Timothy Sekk, had a relationship with Hatsue when they worked together on the island as strawberry pickers. While Chambers was deeply in love, Hatsue had trouble reconciling their relationship in the face of society’s prejudices. Sekk brings an air of melancholy to Chambers that needs no words, which makes some of the dialogue seem a bit overcontrived. We keep revisiting the fact that he and Hatsue had a somewhat sacred place in a hollowed out cedar tree.
With the multiple jumps from decade to decade, this performance was not an easy feat to pull off. However, with an adept director in David Schweizer, the audience is never lost and the story seems to flow easily. Also, several actors play more than one character. For example, Kristin Griffith is cast as both the bitter and fearful Etta Heine, mother of Carl Heine, Jr., and killer of the land deal, and as the quietly supportive Mrs. Chambers, comforting her depressed and shell shocked son after he returns from the war.
A blend of history, subtle acting and a commentary on prejudice, Snow Falling on Cedars is a touching performance. It really makes you think about what makes us human. Be sure to catch this show before April 3. Times and ticket prices can be found online at www.centerstage.org.
Snow Falling on Cedars Playing at CenterStage
700 North Calvert Street Baltimore