COURTESY KUMU KAHUA THEATRE
Mish Raboteau, Jodie Yamada and Jason Kanda go over their roles in "Hostage Wife" with playwright Nancy Moss.
Script avoids political bent to succeed as family drama
When an American is taken hostage for political purposes, it's natural to focus our attention on the fate of the captive. Will he or she be released unharmed, die horribly while a terrorist cameraman records the atrocity for propaganda purposes, or perhaps be killed in the cross-fire of a bungled rescue attempt?
"Hostage Wife" continues at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through June 15 at Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St. Tickets are $16. Call 536-4441 or visit www.KumuKahua.org|
Hawaii playwright Nancy Moss approaches the all-too-familiar scenario of a "hostage situation" from a different perspective in her new play, "Hostage Wife," at Kumu Kahua Theatre.
It's a day like any other day for mild-mannered Kaimuki housewife Dee Fernandez until FBI agent Alan Baker arrives with news from Iraq. Her husband, Bert Fernandez, an American "contractor," has been kidnapped and is being held by an unspecified terrorist group. If their demands are not met, Bert and another hostage will die.
The terrorists go public, of course, and Dee becomes an instant media celebrity. She also finds herself confronted anew with issues that she thought had been resolved long ago, and with choices that she'd thought would never come her way again.
"Hostage Wife" turns out to be engaging and entertaining. Moss and director Harry Wong III avoid the temptation of making it a heavy-handed political piece for or against U.S. involvement in Iraq.
The primary issues could apply to the experiences of a woman whose husband has just become a conventional POW or who is being held hostage by, say, prison inmates or bank robbers. Suddenly, a woman who has come to accept her place in a stable but emotionally sterile marriage must assume the role of decision-maker and accept the possibility of starting over.
Jodie A. Yamada (Dee) and Jason Kanda (Alan Baker) are the keys to making "Hostage Wife" work as a story about two interesting people rather than as an oblique statement about American foreign policy or a satire about the superficiality of American media.
Yamada is perfect as an unassuming woman who finds the strength to blossom in adversity. Kanda, best known till now for his brilliant one-man performance in Eric Yokomori's "Dare Devil Blues," steps forward simultaneously as a low-key comedian and convincing romantic lead, playing the FBI agent as a man with his own load of emotional baggage.
Other characters add comic relief. Denise-Aiko Chinen (Mindy Toshiro) steals several scenes as Dee's nosey and obliviously superficial neighbor. The comic impact of Chinen's performance is heightened by costume designer Dusty Behner's success at the seemingly impossible task of making Chinen appear frumpy and unattractive. Chinen quickly became an audience favorite on opening night.
Nani Morita contributes comic content and also helps playwright Moss fill in the back-story, as Dee's fickle and promiscuous daughter.
A significant amount of the other comic content concerns the media and others who seek to capitalize on the fleeting fame of instant celebrities. Dee fields bland questions from a television reporter, gets an offer to endorse a line of "feminine products" during her "short window of name recognition," and is confronted by an abrasive reporter from a local newspaper -- it's NOT the Star-Bulletin -- who barges into her home without removing his shoes and then barely lets her finish a sentence while he "interviews" her.
Our view of Dee and her responses to her husband's kidnapping are shaped by the discovery that Bert Fernandez was not a particularly nice guy. He used a racial epithet in reference to the nosey neighbor's family, looked forward to killing enemy personnel in Iraq and was at best a "difficult" man to live with. And so, we gradually find a second meaning in the words "hostage wife."