Now that the first night nerves of the cast are a thing of the past, the Nisei Blue production at playRights in Calgary has settled into an interesting run.
The plot concerns a detective named John on his retirement day who gets together with an old friend called Bob to investigate a case that took place 45 years earlier. Bob is shallow an loud-mouthed whilst John is quiet and thoughtful.
The action shifts between 1983 and 1938 and focuses on Japantown in bustling thirties Calgary - in particular the vibrant Orchid Club, where there's a swinging crooner called Tak and a femme fatale named Millie, played by the delightful Mellie Ng. There's also the ageing Fumi who links together the two periods as a kind of semi-narrator.
There's a corpse (of course), and a good-sized dollop of racial prejudice in the way that Japanese Canadians were interned at the outbreak of war.
This particular production is a little heavy-handed but as Mieko Ouchi's play moves into repertory it is likely that it will be reformatted to be sharper, with less of Bob, less of the declamatory ending and more of the Orchid Club and noirish postering.
The very talented Mieko Ouchi
My Canadian friend, also called John, who provided the basis for this review, also suggests that the sub-plot of a relationship between John and Millie might also help to move things along. All in all, though, with such interesting elements and the period atmosphere, this looks like a play that can benefit from the key advantage that theatre has over film - the ability to evolve with time.