August 19, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Playwright Luis Valdez’s “Valley of the Heart”

There is no doubt that multi-award winning playwright Luis Valdez is a brilliant playwright, earning his stripes with his innovative “Zoot Suit,” which premiered in 1978 at the Mark Taper Forum and subsequently made history by becoming the first Chicano musical to hit Broadway. His newest play, “Valley of the Heart” was greatly anticipated, but alas the production does not live up to the brilliance of his iconic “Zoot Suit,” which is not the fault of the script.

Let’s start with the script, which is very well written and begins in 1945. It tells the story of two immigrant families – the Yamaguchis, a Japanese-American family who own a farm in California’s Santa Clara Valley known today as Silicon Valley. They share the land with the Montaños, a Mexican-American family who are sharecroppers living in a small, quite rural farmhouse adjacent to the Yamaguchis. Both families are friendly with each other and are determined to give their American-born children a slice of the American dream. Unbeknownst to the respective parents, the first generation Americans from each family are secretly in love with each other.

John Iacovelli’s set design of the Montaños and the Yamaguchis living side by side on the farm in California’s Santa Clara Valley in Luis Valdez’s “Valley of the Heart” on stage at the Mark Taper Forum presented in association with El Teatro Campesino.

In view of the White House’s draconian action against immigrants, this eerily timely story is told through the prism of World War II when Japanese citizens were ripped from their homes and put into detention facilities, which were ill-equipped concentration camps. Their crime? Being Japanese. And for that, they were considered the enemy of the United States of America who was at war with Japan following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. So far. So good. The script captures the painful words and action this Japanese family endured as they prepare to leave for the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp in Wyoming with just whatever they could carry. Their Mexican neighbors give them moral support, assuring them that they would take care of the farm until their Japanese friends were returned home.

In addition to a beautifully crafted script, the production values are outstanding, beginning with David Murakami’s projection design taking you into the surrounding vistas such as shots of crops and the pastoral country setting. Each of the family’s homes are well designed by scenic designer John Iacovelli, who makes maximum use of the space, with Pablo Santiago’s lighting design and Philip G. Allen’s sound beautifully enhancing the action at hand. So, we have an outstanding script and outstanding production values. Sadly, what we don’t have is an ensemble of skilled actors who could delve deeply into playwright/director’s Valdez’s characters and deliver polished professional performances. However, there is one excellent performance given by Lakin Valdez who as Benjamin Montaño is also the narrator of the story. He is in love with Thelma Yamaguchi, poorly played by Melanie Arii Mah, who gave what amounted to line readings. The actress never delved below the surface to reach the subtext of her character’s lines and mostly indicated* her emotional moments. The story takes us through the interment, Benjamin and Thelma’s marriage and the birth of their child, Benjamin’s determination to get reunited with his Japanese family, the homecoming, a few musical and pantomime numbers that seemed dropped in for effect and so it goes until the end. All this said, I have the utmost respect and admiration for Mr. Valdez and look forward to whatever project he has on his backburner

With David Murakami’s projection design in the background, Benjamin Montaño (Lakin Valdez) enjoys some fun with his secret girlfriend Thelma Yamaguchi (Melanie Arii Mah).

Other members of the cast gave performances ranging from rank amateur to possibly college level with some of the dialogue not even understandable. They include,) Moises Castro (Ernesto “Tito” Montaño,) Justin Chien (Joe “Yoshi” Yamaguchi,) Randall Nakano (Ichiro Yamaguchi,) Joy Osmanski, (Hana Yamaguchi,) Rose Portillo(Paula Montaño,) Daniel Valdez (Cayetano Montaño,) Christy Sandoval (Maruca Montaño,) and Scott Keiji Takeda (Calvin Sakamoto). I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mariela Arteaga and Michael Naydoe Pinedo, the mysterious figures draped in black from head to toe. They portrayed Kurogos, stagehands in traditional Japanese theatre who incorporate Kubuki-style movements. They moved on cat feet and gracefully aided in prop and set changes, as well as standing at attention as formidable guards looming in the background.

The big take-away is a reminder that the internment of the Japanese people is one of the blackest marks in American history and one we thought we would never witness again. Alas, a similar black mark is unfolding right before our eyes as we see immigrant families torn apart and most recently mothers and small children being tear gassed as they attempt to cross the border. Valdez’s play sharply illuminates the agony inflicted upon innocent people when a government unilaterally decides that a race of people is a danger to the nation’s security.

*”Indicating” is an acting term meaning when an actor fakes an emotion instead of having it emanate from a truthful place.

Mark Taper Forum
135 N. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Run:
Tuesdays – Fridays: 8:00 pm
Saturdays: 2:30pm & 8:00 pm
Sundays:  1:00pm & 6:30pm

Closing Date: December 9, 2018

Tickets: $30-$99 (ticket prices subject to change)

 213. 628.2772 or www.CenterTheatreGroup.org

Related Posts

Goop Superfina Opening Ghost Kitchen in Santa Monica

August 17, 2022

August 17, 2022

Gwyneth Paltrow coming to Santa Monica August 31 By Dolores Quintana Goop Founder Gwyneth Paltrow has added another arm to...

Chicken Tender Festival Coming to Beverly Hills This Weekend

August 17, 2022

August 17, 2022

Tenderfest happening at the Wallis Annenberg Center this Saturday By Dolores Quintana  Tenderfest is coming to Beverly Hills at the...

Burglary Suspect Arrested in Santa Monica With Stolen Property in Possession

August 16, 2022

August 16, 2022

SMPD detectives believe suspect is responsible for other thefts in the area By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police over the...

Americana in the Park Concert Series Returns to Santa Monica’s Gandara Park this September

August 16, 2022

August 16, 2022

McCabe’s Guitar Shop partners with the City for a celebration of Americana music McCabe’s Guitar Shop, in partnership with the...

Anne Heche Dies Following Mar Vista Crash

August 16, 2022

August 16, 2022

Actress dies at 53 due to injuries sustained in August 5 crash By Sam Catanzaro Anne Heche has died at...

Police Seek Publics Help In Identifying Victims Of Sexual Assault By Registered Sex Offender: Santa Monica Beat – August 15th, 2022

August 15, 2022

August 15, 2022

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* Police Seek Publics Help In Identifying Victims Of Sexual Assault By Registered...

Man Arrested for Santa Monica’s Second Homicide of the Year

August 15, 2022

August 15, 2022

Lamont E. Horton arrested in connection to August 11 murder By Sam Catanzaro A man was arrested by Santa Monica...

Sunset Park Custom Home Lists For First Time Ever By Original Builders $5.9M: Santa Monica Real Estate Report – August 15th, 2022

August 15, 2022

August 15, 2022

Property, Developments, and Listings on the Westside.* City Council Votes to Unanimously Backs Proposal to Cut Rent Increases* Sunset Park...

Construction Begins on Michigan Avenue Affordable Housing Development

August 13, 2022

August 13, 2022

The new development will replace the Santa Monica Nikkei Hall By Dolores Quintana ​​A new affordable housing project has begun...

Column: Time to Crack Down on Vacant Homes’ Owners

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist ​​There is no doubt California has a housing shortage. That’s fact even in the wake of...

Metro To Hold Community Meetings About Potential Green Line Extension

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

By Dolores Quintana Los Angeles Metro is holding a series of public meetings to discuss extending the Metro C or...

Another Mountain Lion Dies After Being Hit by a Car

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

P-89 found dead along the shoulder of the 101 Freeway in Woodland Hills last month By Sam Catanzaro Another mountain...

Santa Monica Police Arrest Sexual Assualt Suspect

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

Anthony Barrett arrested in connection to June 28 assault By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police are seeking the public’s help...

LA City Council Approves Expanded Anti-Camping Ordinance

August 11, 2022

August 11, 2022

Bonin one of three not votes in expansion of LAMC section 41.18 Los Angeles City Council has banned homeless encampments...