Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 22, 2011

Snow Falling on Cedars

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
through February 13, 2011
by Shera Cohen

It is opening night and Hartford Stage has its hands full creating and executing three inseparable stories into one plot in little more than two hours. "Snow Falling on Cedars," based on a best-selling novel, achieves nearly all that it strives to attain in story, character development, and the broader scope of historic facts.

At its core is the ashamed internment of Japanese-Americans during and shortly after WWII. One Japanese character softly and strongly says to a Caucasian, "Look at my face." Those four words sum up the deep conflict of the times and the people. The sub-plot of young, forbidden love takes the global crisis to a human level. Finally, is a mystery played out in a murder trial. The latter is the less defined with a pat and convenient ending.

A lot happens in onstage, with 12 actors double and triple cast, a multitude of scenes jumping back and forth from the 1940's to the 1950's, and a stylized set with turning floor. Except, on occasion and at the play's start when some of the double roles are confusing, director Jeremy B. Cohen works a marvel of fast and seamless overlapping segments to become a full and excellent production. Admittedly, there are too many scenes which make the play feel longer than it is in spite of Cohen's swift changes of the set elements. As for Scenic Designer Takeshi Kata's accomplishments, less is more with a sliding backdrop of various pictures and two large moveable ramps expertly depicting nearly everything conceivable on the fictitious island off of Washington.

Primarily an ensemble cast, the lovers might be considered the "stars." Kimiye Corwin and Dashiell Eaves make for a poignant duo. Yet, actors Bill Doyle, Kate Levy, and Ron Nakahara take advantage of their moments to shine.

Part narrative and part dialogue, the play simultaneously tells and shows the progression of the story. Oftentimes, Act II of any script is not as well depicted. "Cedars" is one of the exceptions, particularly with the balance of humor and hands-on war combat action, of which there is neither in Act I.