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September 3, 2014
Review: Robinson (to) Crusoe
Ethan Nguyen and Al Patrick Jo in "Robinson (to) Crusoe". Photo by Futoshi Miyai.
Ethan Nguyen and Al Patrick Jo in "Robinson (to) Crusoe". Photo by Futoshi Miyai.

Though billed as a “comedy for kids 7 to 107 years old”, Robinson (to) Crusoe isn't your average children's story. It takes place on a deserted island in the Asian Pacific Ocean, where two men have been stranded. One has come from a sunk Korean ship, and the other is a Japanese soldier-pilot who survived a crash landing. The time: shortly after the end of World War II. Nevertheless, I proceeded to take my seven year old to the opening night of what turned out to be a fabulous and unusual production.

Despite the potentially heavy subject matter, the play opens with a light-hearted interaction of the two men dancing around each other in the dark, in something of an old Keystone Cops style comic ballet. When they finally confront one another, they discover that one is from Korea and the other from Japan -- two countries that were at war with each other during WWII. But as the Japanese soldier is about to attack his enemy, the Korean soldier shows him leaflets that had been dropped by a plane, proclaiming that the war has ended.

The balance of the play consists of opportunities for the two men, once sworn enemies, to now try and work together and help each other survive life on the desert island as they try to find a way back to their homes and families. We see the two men learn about one another not as the stereotypes they had been taught during the war, but as real people -- people who have feelings, fears, wives and children, just like anyone we might know, or be.

The tone of the show is liberally sprinkled with great humor. The performers are both charming and human, and the show uses this as a teaching tool to allow children to see how we are all more the same than different. And behind it all is a backdrop of a three-piece orchestra that puts on a wonderful supporting role, setting the mood and emotions.

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Written by: Lance Evans
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