at CdA Summer Theatre through Aug. 22
... None of this kvetching, however, should deter viewers from taking in Mia Yoshida's transcendent performance in the title role. (She's even better than she was last year at Lewis and Clark High.) In addition, the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre production (through Aug. 22) features Kirk Mouser's directing skill along with some powerful singing voices and strong design elements.
Mouser directs a sleazy-decadent opening scene, set in a Saigon strip joint with plenty of hip thrusts and cigarette smoke. He wisely isolates Yvonne Same in a spotlight, caught amid all the strip club hubbub, for a simply delivered “The Movie in My Mind.” The other Saigon prostitutes and the Engineer — all they want is to escape to America, to the promised land where their idealized "Movie” keeps playing over and over. Kim is the only one who insists on escaping with honor and dignity.
Yoshida shows great acting range in the role: virginal shyness in the opening scenes, followed by dawning passion and maternal protectiveness later on. She wants a better life, but only on her own terms. In the "Sun and Moon" love duet, her voice is tender and yearning. Both in movement and in song, Yoshida portrays Kim’s anguish, wonder and determination. We’re always pulling for her — which, of course, only makes the final tragedy even more somber. (As Chris, Kim’s American lover, Dane Stokinger expressed his character’s tragic dilemma well in the climactic hotel-room confrontation. But Stokinger’s Chris seemed self-focused: less attached to Kim than worried about his own problems.)
Mouser opens Act Two with a simple staging of “Bui-Doi,” the humanitarian plea on behalf of all those Vietnamese children abandoned by American soldiers; the contrast to Chris’s compassion is subtly hinted at. The action scenes bustle with energy; the satiric set-pieces, full of over-the-top glitz, are both amusing and a bit sad. In a heart-tugging show, Mouser’s direction showed restraint in the right places. Still — and despite those ugly American tourists in Bermuda shorts and knee socks — he didn’t tease out all of the show’s humor. ...
... In the thankless role of Ellen, Chris’s American wife, Jessica Skerritt handles extreme emotions with subtlety. Statuesque but not remote, she transformed the hand-wringing of “Now That I’ve Seen Her” into a genuine dilemma.
(For the full review, pick up a copy of the Aug. 16 Inlander.)
(Photos by Young Kwak; second photo: Dane Stokinger as Chris and Mia Yoshida as Kim)