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The Rising Tide of Color

The play, in its world preem under the direction of Brian Nelson, is further undermined by an embarrassing, caricaturized depiction of the "white man" by its all Asian-Pacific cast, trivializing the Anglo-Saxon enemy beyond serious concern.

With:
Maid ... Annie Yee Narrator ... Cindy Cheung Elizabeth Phipps ... Garrielani Miyazaki Paul ... Shaun Shimoda Julie ... Julie Gill Everett Phipps ... Dom Magwili Reverend Peter Aldrich ... Nelson Mashita Dr. George Sinclair ... Darrell Kunitomi Russell Phipps ... Byron Mann Vernon Takeshita's surrealistic comedy focuses on an obscure footnote to America's history of racism and ethnic subjugation: a 1920s textbook, "The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy," by Harvard Ph.D. Lothrop Stoddard. Though admirable in its intent to expose society's validation of discrimination, Takeshita's work flies in too many directions, defeating its efforts to address this all-too-real blight on our collective histories.

The play, in its world preem under the direction of Brian Nelson, is further undermined by an embarrassing, caricaturized depiction of the “white man” by its all Asian-Pacific cast, trivializing the Anglo-Saxon enemy beyond serious concern.

In his dubious treatise, Stoddard concluded: “The question of Asiatic immigration is incomparably the greatest external problem which faces the white world …”

Stoddard’s theories are whole-heartedly endorsed by wealthy Nob Hill businessman Everett Phipps (Dom Magwili), his patrician wife Elizabeth (Garrielani Miyazaki), daughter Julie (Julie Gill), nephew Russell (Byron Mann), as well as family physician Dr. George Sinclair (Darrell Kunitomi) and Phipps’ business associate, Reverend Peter Aldrich (Nelson Mashita).

The fortress of Phipps’ racism is breached when Elizabeth hires Paul (Shaun Shimoda), a college-educated Japanese gardener. Paul’s presence exposes a cornucopia of cartoonlike sinful behavior among these Nob Hill patricians: Everett is a lecher, Elizabeth a drug addict, Dr. Sinclair a pedophile and nephew Russell an incestuous rapist.

Takeshita spends so much time vilifying the Phipps family and friends that he never truly addresses the evil inherent within a society that would claim scientific and scholastic justification for elevating one race over another.

The playwright further obscures the issue by the use of an onstage narrator (Cindy Cheung) who never clarifies the playwright’s text but actually manages to lose herself among the onstage machinations of the lustful Phipps.

The true gem in this production is the put-upon Irish maid Mary as portrayed by Annie Yee. Her thick Irish brogue, presented as jibberish to the insensitive ears of the Phippses, her mournful cries and pain-filled eyes personify the degradation-by-class that Takeshita’s text strives for but never reaches.

The scenic and lighting designs of Bill Eigenbrodt and Randy L. Ingram, respectively, mirror the flimsy facade of the play.

The Rising Tide of Color

(East West Players, L.A.; 85 seats; $ 20 top)

Production: East West Players presents a drama in two acts by Vernon Takeshita; director, Brian Nelson; supervising producer, Mark Scott Spatny.

Creative: Set design, Bill Eigenbrodt; costumes, Susan Doepner; lighting, Randy L. Ingram; sound design, Taiho Yamada. Opened March 17, 1993; reviewed April 3; runs through April 25.

Cast: Maid ... Annie Yee Narrator ... Cindy Cheung Elizabeth Phipps ... Garrielani Miyazaki Paul ... Shaun Shimoda Julie ... Julie Gill Everett Phipps ... Dom Magwili Reverend Peter Aldrich ... Nelson Mashita Dr. George Sinclair ... Darrell Kunitomi Russell Phipps ... Byron Mann Vernon Takeshita's surrealistic comedy focuses on an obscure footnote to America's history of racism and ethnic subjugation: a 1920s textbook, "The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy," by Harvard Ph.D. Lothrop Stoddard. Though admirable in its intent to expose society's validation of discrimination, Takeshita's work flies in too many directions, defeating its efforts to address this all-too-real blight on our collective histories.

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