Staged in Kenan Theatre, the play was performed entirely by Joel
de la Fuente, whose captivatingly versatile acting and seemingly limitless
energy brought the story to life and the audience to full attention.
As the play opened, Fuente swiftly silenced the theater by
rising from the audience to recount Hirabayashi’s story and deliver a powerful soliloquy
about his decades of struggle. Fuente’s passion and dynamism were transfixing
to witness, and held the audience’s focus from the play’s opening to its
Throughout the show, Fuente adopted a diverse assortment of
personas, ranging from Hirabayashi’s parents and friends, to racist southern
lawmen and northern bureaucrats. His seamless transitions between radically divergent
characters and ideologies was not only an engaging feat, but it also made the performance
feel like it had a cast of thousands.
Fuente’s skilful appropriation of such wildly different viewpoints
and understandings adeptly canvassed the time period: yielding memorable
moments of tension which oscillated between heartwarming and chilling.
The layout of the set was fairly static, and used an array
of lighting and sound techniques to establish different atmospheres throughout the
play. This stylistic choice wonderfully counterbalanced the complexity of Fuente’s
performance and transformed the relatively small stage into a vast canvas upon
which he could create.
From jail cells and courtrooms to the desert sun and Empire
State Building, the play’s smooth transition from anecdote to anecdote gave the
performance a feeling of motion and relevance without ever impeding on its
Fuente’s amazingly versatile performance, along with the
play’s resourceful and technically adept staging, netted the show a minute long
standing ovation and the shouted accolades of dozens of audience members. The production
was not only an incredibly entertaining affair, but managed to rein in the play’s
powerful themes in a staggeringly visceral performance.