The Hour of the Tiger

by Michael Martin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday January 30, 2010

The Hour of the Tiger

The New Theatre in Coral Gables once again proves itself a stomping ground for premiers of new works. Some pieces, however, like the current production of The Hour of the Tiger may have enjoyed more time in the workshop before heading to the professional stage.

Sandra Riley's story takes place in Japan in the radical 1970s where traditions of old often collided with a societal urge for change to a more modernistic lifestyle.

David (Christopher Vicchiollo) is a gay ex-patriot working in Japan long enough to have mastered the foreign language. His lesbian friend Alexa (Kim Ehly) also resides temporarily in the country on a personal quest to better understand the far eastern culture.

Quite by coincidence, Alexa meets a geisha girl named Sanagi (Gwendolyn Lai) one night at a local club and becomes smitten with her look and passive demeanor.

Hiroshi (Eric Miji), Sanagi's keeper and mentor, notices Sanagi's inquisitive behavior after her introduction to Alexa, and perhaps detects a possible attraction.

Though gay himself, Hiroshi discourages any homosexual activity or advances made by his geisha. Word of such actions might be bad for his business of hiring Sanagi out as a professional entertainer of sorts to businessmen ready to pay a hefty sum for a geisha's company.

Tempted by this forbidden love, Riley's story then obviously centers on Sanagi's escape from Hiroshi's hold and her geisha past.

Hiroshi, sensing a loss of business and potential income, looks for consolation in the arms of his new boyfriend, who just happens to conveniently be David since only four actors are employed for the production.

Unfortunately because Riley's plot plods slowly on, the Hour of the Tiger, named for the 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. time period defined by the Japanese culture as a vigorous and bold time, seems more like the antithesis of the definitive adjectives.

A clever set by scenic designer Yamarys Salomon and gorgeous costuming for the geisha by K. Blair Brown respectively establish an authenticity of locale.

The storyline, however, often becomes predictable leaving little magic for director Ricky J. Martinez to conjure up.

The encouragement of new works by new artists should be supported, an act often commendable by The New Theatre. A finer toothed comb might be utilized, however, in the selection of pieces that are actually ready for full production upon the big stage.

The Hour of the Tiger continues through February 14 at The New Theatre, 4120 Laguna Street in Coral Gables, FL. For more information, please visit the website.

Michael Martin has been an active member of Actors' Equity for over 20 years. As a professional actor, he has toured many parts of the US and the world. Originally from St. Louis, he now resides in Miami.