By: Paulanne Simmons
Edward Sakamoto, who wrote Fishing for Wives, now staged by Pan Asian Repertory and directed by Ron Nakahara, is the grandson of two “picture brides,” Japanese women who came to Hawaii to marry a man they knew only by his photograph. Sakamoto has used his heritage as the basis for a funny and insightful play about two Japanese/Hawaiian men who find their true love in very indirect ways.
Takeo (Viet Vo), who has not had much luck in attracting women by mail, finds he must resort to desperate measures. Instead of his own picture, he sends his intended the photo of his good-looking friend, Tsutomu (Bobby Foley), who happens to be a confirmed bachelor.
When Yamamoto (Kiyo Takami) arrives and finds out the man whose picture she has fallen in love with is not the man she is about to marry, she resolves to get Tsutomu by any means necessary. While Yamamoto is dedicating herself to Tsutomu and scorning Takeo (women’s problems prevent them from consummating the marriage), Tsutomu’s father sends his son one marriage candidate after another.
Umeko (Rebecca Lee Lerman) is easily frightened (mostly by Yamamoto) and soon returns home. Ihara (Akiko Hiroshima) is even more manipulative and selfish than Yamamoto. Finally, along comes Murashima (Allison Hiroto), who surprises everyone with her steadfast resistance to rejection and obstacles set in her path.
It soon becomes apparent that the many wives in Fishing for Wives are allegorical representations of the kind of Japanese women who came to Hawaii. How they faired. may remind us, in many ways, of the pioneer women who settled America. Only those with the right qualities survived.
Fishing for Wives is very much an ensemble piece in which the actors together tell a story. Nakahara effectively uses lighting, sound affects and staging to hold the different parts of the story together. Excellent acting does the rest.
Fishing for Wives has the quality of a picture book come to life. It is beautiful, engaging, a bit mysterious and, at times, delightfully amusing.
Fishing for Wives, at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row (410 West 42 Street) runs through April 27. Running time 90 minutes with one 10-minute intermission. (212) 239-6200 www.panasianrep.org.