Pearl Harbor attack and its consequences come to life in ‘Nothing is the Same’

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It was a pleasant warm day in Hawaii on December 7th 1941. Children were having great fun playing marbles and gently teasing each other as children often will do. Hawaii is a great melting pot of cultures from all across the Pacific and in this one group we find two of Korean heritage, one Filipino and one whose family came from Japan — regardless of their heritage they were Hawaiian and thus American. But on that day, a day that shall forever live in infamy, as bombs fell from the sky killing 3,000 or so people in and around Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, things changed dramatically. Nothing would ever be the same for these four children nor for pretty much anyone else on earth.

Tristen Kim, Asia Ring
and Yeng Kong Thao

The big problem most severely struck American citizens who happened to be of Japanese heritage — for now both the United States of America and Japan were at war. The almost immediate reaction from the mainly Caucasian political and military leaders was to round up and incarcerate anyone who looked Japanese and to the non-Asians that could mean even Koreans and Filipinos, a reality that struck the four youngsters very hard.

Clearly after the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan nothing was the same for everyone especially in Hawaii. Coping with that reality is at the core of the play Nothing is the Sam, written by Y. York and Directed by Tim Dang and is currently on stage at the Sierra Madre Playhouse.

Watching as these four young folks grasp and find ways to cope with the new reality of their day and place was exquisite stage work performed by a double cast. But I couldn’t help but to think about how those events from nearly 77 years back have some striking similarities to current affairs, only today the enemy is perceived as people of Middle Eastern heritage and perhaps also Muslim. Of course, at least as of now we haven’t launched a wholesale round up and incarceration of Arab-looking Muslims but it is clear that it has been considered by some.

Nothing is the Same is captivating and intriguing and certainly thought provoking. It can be enjoyed by young and old alike and I was intrigued by how thoroughly diverse the audience was in age, gender and cultural heritage. It is a great show but with one flaw to my ears. The dialogue is filled with local colloquialisms from that time and place.  Words like “Pau” meaning done, finished or “Shishi” meaning pee or urinate or “Huli’’ meaning upside down.

Melvin Biteng, Tristen Kim
and Asia Ring

There is no doubt but that the writer’s intent was to make the play as real as possible. The problem for me at least was that it sometimes made the dialogue difficult if not impossible to follow. I fully understand the intent, but consider this by way of example. Take pretty much any war movie about World War II. There may well be brief scenes where the German soldiers were speaking German but even then there would likely also be English translation graphically generated for the audience to read and understand the context. Any lengthy dialogue from a German, in an American made film aimed at and American audience, would be in English. My only point is that the abundant use of Hawaiian colloquialisms was, to me, more distracting than enlightening.

That said it is very well done and worthy and absolutely does stimulate thought so I unflinching do recommend Nothing is the Same at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 West Sierra Madre Boulevard, Sierra Madre, California. It is playing now through March 3rd 2018. Further information including reservations and ticketing is available HERE  or by calling 626-355-4318.

And now just for fun I leave with this little Haiku inspired by the show.

Children play marbles
Having great fun in warm sun
Bombs drop. Nothing same.

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

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Photos by Grace Kim
Top photo: Yeng Kong Thao, Asia Ring, Tristen Kim and Melvin Bitong