It all happens on July 5, so why wouldn't Florida Studio Theatre open their production of A.R. Gurney's Far East on that date? The Japanese influenced staging began at the Sarasota venue July 4 for a run through the 22nd.
Director Victoria Holloway accentuates the eastern theatre elements in Gurney's script, including techniques from the Noh, Bunraku and Kabuki forms. Like Noh, there is minimal scenery; like Bunraku, there is a Reader who acts as a narrator and the voices of some characters; like Kabuki, wooden clappers are used to mark breaks between scenes and mood, underlining important moments in the play.
Far East, set during the United States still tentative relations with Japan after World War II, follows U.S. officer "Sparky" Watts as he vacillates between his commanding officer (Geoff Pierson), his commanding officer's wife (Zimbalist) and the Japanese woman he loves. The drama received its debut at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theatre in 1998. Other plays by Gurney include Love Letters, Sylvia and The Cocktail Hour.
The cast features Constance Boardman (Reader), Jason Deppen (Stagehand), Alvon Griffin (Percussionist), Eliza Foss (Julia), Jason Kuykendall (Sparky), Scott Reeves (Bob), Doug Rugala (Stagehand) and Jeff Sugarman (Anderson).
Designing Far East are Eric Craft (sets), Jeffrey E. Salzberg (lighting) and Marcella Beckwith (costumes). Jennifer L. Boris is production stage manager. Tickets are $26-$18. The Florida Studio Theatre is located at 1241 North Palm Avenue. For reservations, call (941) 366-9000.
-- By Christine Ehren