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THEATER BEAT

'Yearnings' Delivers Funny, Poignant Tale

July 19, 1996|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

Considering the downbeat title, the bittersweet comedy of Sachi Oyama's "Yearnings" at East West Players comes as a welcome surprise. Oyama's endearing play about the longings of various "yearners"--two in particular--proves poignant despite its evident slightness.

Dian Kobayashi and Kipp Shiotani play all the roles in this succession of connected two-character scenes. Recurring throughout are unlikely romantic protagonists Fumi Ito (Kobayashi) and John Oishi (Shiotani), aging, long-married Japanese American strangers who have become acquainted during frequent visits to their parents' graves. After many such "chance" encounters, the two fall in love--much to their mutual uncertainty.

Director Darrell Kunitomi (a Times employee) smoothly orchestrates Oyama's unpretentious piece. Shiotani is funny and convincing, despite distracting age makeup. Delicate and amusing, Kobayashi's performance is as pristine as a Japanese print.

In subsequent scenes, we encounter various other yearners, including John's wistful but accepting wife. Ending with John and Fumi's meeting in a Gilroy hotel, the play remains effectively ambivalent about whether John and Fumi find their extramarital pleasure in carnality or simple companionship.

* "Yearnings," East West Players, 4424 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends July 28. $12. (310) 822-6861. Running time:1 hour, 30 minutes.

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