The Kids Ain’t Just Alright in “Nothing Is The Same” at the Sierra Madre Playhouse

Four youngsters in Hawaii enjoy the simple pleasures that only childhood can afford – the unbridled joy of innocent play and friendship without serious judgment – until an act of war changes their lives forever. “Nothing is the Same” by Y York, currently at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, deals with the personal aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

Bobi (Chloe Madriaga), George (Cedric “Ikiaika” Jonathan) and Daniel (On Shiu) portray Asian Pacific Americans of Filipino and Korean descent, and Mits (Kurt Kanazawa) portrays a Japanese-Hawaiian; they are four children whose lives on the North Shore of O’ahu have, up til now, focused intently on the most important things in life – marble collecting, inner-tubing, and free donuts.

The actors as the children establish the longtime mutual understanding and youthful familiarity that is – as with most children – tainted minimally by judgment learned initially from their society around them.

But fueled by the attack on Pearl Harbor, these learned judgments are exacerbated, resulting in an increase of hatred and racism all around them. New familial and societal feelings and fears begin to bleed into there their lives, fracturing friendships and altering their innocence.

Funny and charming, the play beautifully and sensitively directed by Tim Dang (East West Players) is accented by a minimalist yet vibrant set designed by Tesshi Nakagawa, lighting design by Derek Jones, sound design by Howard Ho, and Rod Salasay’s ukulele music, which together paint a paradise landscape and backdrop that instantly take you to O’ahu’s North Shore.

Photo by John Dlugolecki
Mits (Kurt Kanazawa) is a Samurai in “Nothing is the Same” at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, Sierra Madre, California.

On opening night, the fragrance of plumeria and hibiscus from flower leis worn by audience members and staff filled the theatre and the sensation further transported us into their world.

The actors, barefoot and dressed purposefully rag-tag simple by Tanya Apuya, instantly transform into children at play in paradise. The use of hula dance, designed by Kelsey Chock as a stylized form of action-expression, brings power behind the simplest of joys and in pending traumas.

Among the turmoil that has uprooted trust and created unnatural racist-based fear, a rescue is brilliantly conveyed through dance that highlights a sincere act of friendship, bravery, and forgiveness.

A Pidgin dialect is used throughout, which may take some adjusting to, as the play uses some words that are truly unique to Hawaiian culture. But if you arrive early enough to view the lobby display curated by Diane Siegal, it contains background and history worthy of some study prior. Even if not, the meaning is still conveyed through emotion and actions, as the use of Pidgin lends itself as another texture to the time period.

Produced by Estelle Campbell and Christian Lebano for the Sierra Madre Playhouse, “the play premiered at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth after being developed at the Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices Festival. After touring for two seasons in Hawaii, the original production moved to Seattle Children’s Theatre for an additional three months. The play is the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Literature,” per a press statement.

Over-all, unbridled joy, laughter, tears, hope, tolerance and friendship make “Nothing is the Same” a perfect night out to the theater for everyone in your family.

“Nothing is the Same is at the Sierra Madre Playhouse is now playing, with show nights Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 and Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018, each at 8 p.m., with matinees every Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. General Admission is $30, Senior (65+) $27, and Youth (20 and under) $20. (See related events posted after Gallery)

* Nothing is the Same at the Sierra Madre Playhouse is double-cast.

Additional remaining events to coincide with the play:

Family event “Hawaii ‘Try It’ Mini Workshops” will explore “the cultural contributions of the Philippines, Korea and Native Hawaiians to the Aloha spirit of Hawaii the setting of Nothing is the Same where family can try crafts, learn a dance step, make flower accessories, and taste Hawaiian treats in stations around the playhouse. This event is on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, at 1 p.m., and is free to the public.

A tour of the Japanese Goodwill Garden is scheduled at Sierra Madre Elementary School at 141 W. Highland Avenue. This family event is on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, at 1 p.m., and is free to the public with tea and Japanese snacks will be available for purchase.

About Monique A. LeBleu

Monique A. LeBleu is a writer, photographer, videographer, and shameless foodie and wineaux. A love of film history and a background in film production, post-production, and film theory provide unique insights into her movie reviews. As well, a background in technical theater fuels her passion on all-things theater. As a foodie, living in the ever-growing and diverse culinary landscape that is the City of Los Angeles feeds her never-ending pursuit of the perfect comfort food—the world's best Mac n' Cheese!
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