COURTESY KUMU KAHUA
Jim Andrews and Jodie Yamada reassess their marriage in "Yohen."
‘Yohen’ focuses on couple’s marriage
Although the experiences of Japanese war brides have been addressed as theater in perfect style by Velina Hasu Houston in "Tea," Kumu Kahua offers a fresh perspective with its "Dark Night" production of "Yohen."
» Place: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.
» On stage: 7:30 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday
» Tickets: $10; $5 seniors, students and theater subscribers
» Call: 536-4441
Playwright Philip Kan Gotanda incorporates many of the well-known themes, but in a story that is much more about marriage than race, ethnicity or nationality.
Sumi's family lost most of its wealth when Japan was stripped of its colonial empire in China after World War II. James was a boxer with Olympic potential until he allowed himself to be intimidated during a match with Sugar Ray Robinson. The circumstances of their meeting, and their experiences in Japan, are covered with a broad brush -- she had embarrassed her family by divorcing her first husband, he saw her walking by one day and struck up a conservation, somehow they got married and he brought her to meet his family in Los Angeles.
Now it's 40 years later. He's retired from the Army and has moved out of their home at her request. She says he's "boring" but that she still loves him. He isn't sure exactly what she wants, or whether he fits in to whatever it is.
The playbill explains that "yohen" is a Japanese term for an unintentional flaw created while firing a piece of pottery. Most such imperfections are ugly; some add to the beauty of the piece. Sumi makes ceramic pieces that James appreciates, even though he lacks her knowledge and passion for them, and the concept of "yohen" comes to represent the marriage itself. Do the "flaws" add to it, or should the piece/marriage be destroyed?
Jim Andrews, last seen in The Actors Group production of "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," gives a beautifully shaded portrayal of a perplexed and well-intentioned man who finds new reasons for living as he adapts to the changes that his wife forces upon him. Kumu Kahua veteran Jodie Yamada is equally worth watching as she captures the turmoil of a woman struggling to define herself and her needs, while coming to terms with the past.