The setting: March 1973, Powell Street in Vancouver. Sam Shikaze, P.I., is the main character and narrator of this tale - divorced, middle-aged, a loner and workaholic. He spends most of his time in his shabby office, helping out the locals, and in Rosie's tea shop. When the newly crowned Cherry Blossom Queen is kidnapped, he's on the case, and soon learns that it's more than just a simple kidnapping. Helping him out is his old buddy Chuck Chan, a suave downtown lawyer in beautiful suits, and spunky reporter Nancy Wing. Sam's frenemy, police Captain Kadota (Sam flunked out of the academy and stayed in the neighborhood, while Kadota moved out and up) and a couple of crooked cops complete the characters in this distinctly drawn universe.
|Sam Shikaze, P.I. (Kurt Kwan) with
girl reporter Nancy Wing (Sara Ochs)
The set (by Joseph Stanley) and lighting (by Karin Olson) do wonders in creating the 1970s noir feeling. Sam's sparse office is detailed and authentic, and Rosie's tea shop looks homey and comforting. Lighting changes signify time of day or mood, whether it's streetlights shining through the blinds, or the lowered lighting every time Sam does his noir-ish narration.
Yellow Fever works on several levels - as an entertaining homage to noir detective stories of old, complete with clever witty lines and those classic characters. But it also explores the effects of Japanese interment that wasn't that long ago in our history, and extended beyond the U.S. to our neighbors in the north (a fact previously unbeknownst to me). It's what Mu does best - Asian-American (or Canadian, in this case) theater that appeals to everyone because it's really about our shared history and experience. There are many reasons to go to the Guthrie right now, and Yellow Fever is one of them.