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N.y. Critics Visit Sakamoto's 'Land'

June 27, 1987|DAN SULLIVAN | Times Theater Critic

Ed Sakamoto's "Life of the Land"--seen here in '81 at the East West Players--has found a life in New York, at the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre.

It's a sequel to Sakamoto's "Manoa Valley," in which a young man leaves Hawaii for the mainland to seek his fortune. Here he returns after 20 years, not exactly burned out, but ready to settle in with his family.

D. J. Bruckner of the New York Times was impressed. He didn't find Sakamoto "notably skilled as a storyteller," but he thought the play showed an "absolute command of language. . . . Mr. Sakamoto creates restrained but passionate characters who share a wisdom that ought to be common but mostly eludes us because none of us can talk so well."

Julius Novick of the Village Voice wasn't so impressed. He thought that the family in the play, the Kamiyas, got along too well to generate much drama. He wanted more of a sense of "immigrant trauma."

And yet, " . . . Considering how little of any consequence happens to the Kamiyas, how little we learn of what it means and feels like to be them, it is surprisingly pleasant to watch them having their picnic in the park."

The New York Post's Marilyn Stasio thought the Hawaiian setting gave "Life of the Land" a little more interest than the average "homesick play" (her coinage)--but not enough. "The dramatic situation is static and the issues raised are obvious to the point of banality."

Edith Oliver of the New Yorker was slightly charmed. She found the acting "agreeable," the writing "rather low on content."

MANY HANDS. The Mark Taper Forum's Japan tour of "Terra Nova" had other sponsors beside the one reported here last week, the Shochiku Corp. Help also came from Japan's Institute of Dramatic Arts, Japan-United States Friendship Commission, the City of Los Angeles and its Japanese sister city, Nagoya, and Japan Air Lines.

On the one hand, the Royal Shakespeare Company is talking about shutting down either its Stratford or its London operation because of its huge deficit this year, $1.79 million.

On the other hand, a show created under RSC auspices, "Les Miserables," is a monster hit on Broadway and the West End.

Variety reports that the London Times is raising questions about why the RSC stands to make much less money from "Les Miz" than does the creative team which put the show together while on the RSC payroll: co-directors Trevor Nunn and John Caird, set designer John Napier, etc.

Some British theater folk can remember when Tyrone Guthrie would take on a West End directing job just so he could donate his director's fee to the financially strapped Old Vic Company.

IN QUOTES. Fred Astaire (1899-1987): "I'm really a rat, when you get to know me."

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