Beginning with an introduction that cuts right through the fourth wall, the theatrical production SLICE, written by Paul Kikuchi, sets itself up as an over-the-top comedy with plenty of sword penis analogies tempered in.
The story, set in 14th century Japan, follows armor-repairer/aspiring sword-maker Kai, played by Scott Keiji Takeda, in his oft-interrupted goal of achieving wealth and fortune by making the perfect samurai sword. Kai with his childish propensity to introduce himself as the country’s greatest sword smith, whenever he finds himself in the middle of the stage, is constantly scolded by his tiger mom Aiko Matsuda, played by Emily Kuroda, for neglecting his full time job as armor repairer. In typical tiger mom fashion, Aiko hires the beautiful Fumi Tanaka, played by Elizabeth Ho, as a helping hand in what seems to be a ploy to set her son straight and hopefully father some grandchildren. But trouble ensues when famous swordsman and local geisha house aficionado Lord Ito, played by Mike Hagiwara, and his citation crazed bodyguard Tashiro, played by Aaron Takahashi, reveals that Fumi is a fugitive running from the evil mama’s boy Lord Watanabe, also played by Aaron Takahashi, with the sword smith competition only days away.
The notion of evil Lords and samurai swords may suggest that the production is geared towards action comedy, but the performance is actually more of a pure comedy at heart. Paul Kikuchi makes it clear that he is not afraid to fire jokes at the audience like a machine gun, and does so by employing a variety of comedic devices to great effect. These range from Mike Hagiwara’s dry wit and George Takei-esque voice to Aaron Takahashi’s physical comedy, which ultimately helps draw in anticipation for the next farcical dialogue or situation irony. The onslaught of jokes did come with its risks though and a few ended up being flat. Fortunately, the cast’s great comedic timing and acting chops helped those awkward moments quickly pass into the next flurry of jokes.
Sets, set pieces, and costumes all work well within the context of the play. Authentic swords, surprisingly, add a bit of thrill to the show, and the rustic background adds relevance to the time period. Costumes have a clear Japanese flair, and effortlessly convey details such as character occupations and social standing. Even what would be considered rather poor set pieces such as Kai’s failed sword and Lord Watanabe’s armor does not feel out of place by offering comedic value. Lighting, in particular, was very well used to show changes in the environment.
SLICE, to put it simply, is fun, and absurd and ridiculous and a bunch of other things that I wholeheartedly mean as a compliment. The cast looks like they’re having a great time performing on set and the audience, made up of local community members, look like they’re having a great time watching. The fun is wonderfully infectious and it’s always a pleasant surprise when jokes that would normally make you groan eventually have you chuckling next to your seat mate.
by Staff Writer SUNG KONG
SLICE by Paul Kikuchi is an exciting new play developed in East West Players’ David Henry Hwang Writers’ Institute. After several successful readings, including a standing-room-only performance with Metamorphosis Theatre Company, the play is now being fully staged at the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena, CA!
Set in 14th century Japan, struggling swordsmith Kai Matsuda want to forge the perfect samurai sword. Unfortunately, he’s on a tight deadline, lost his creative punch and trying not to think about Fumi Tanaka. A comedy about love, art and some serious banging.
Fremont Centre Theatre
1000 Fremont Ave
South Pasadena CA 91030
Performances: Oct 14 through Nov 18
Fri & Sat @ 8:00 PM
Sun @ 2:00 PM
General Admission: $25