Utopia Theatre Project’s all-original play “Seeds” debuted last night at PianoFight Cabaret and performance venue in downtown San Francisco. It is an outstanding production of an ambitious ensemble of actors who are achieving high caliber levels of dramatic art seldom seen in the fog city. And, what is most remarkable is that the average age of them are 20-something to 30’s; that’s usually, when most actors are only novices.
The driving force behind Utopia Theatre Project is director and founder Anne Yumi Kobori. Like the ensemble she gathered to portray the nine characters – Kobori has a wealth of training and experience. She also has tremendous energy, drive and vision which is reflected in this unique-all-original work. She has considerable skill as a playwright and her ability to delve into the human experience is insightful.
But what took this reporter by surprise was the fact that Kobori has written about something, with a depth and a clarity, that happened more than 70 years ago. She had told me briefly before the show that she wrote it not so much for historical context but for the emotional and psychological aspects. Still, the incredible script she wrote inspired the ensemble to perform and reach excellence. “Seeds” contains a knowledge and spirit of that time which is uncanny. Kobori is under 30, yet her ability to uncover, examine, reflect and uplift is exceptional.
This ensemble of nine tells the multi-layered story of three soldiers. One from London, the other two Southerners from Virginia near the Appalachian mountains of the United States.
As the end of WWII in Europe concludes in 1944, the three happen to meet a lovely French woman, strolling along in the countryside. What starts initially as just friendly chat then turns ugly as the three men take advantage of her, violating her. They leave her hurt and devastated as the three swear to secrecy.
But as they return home, each of them experience guilt, shame and fear. They return to the normalcy of what was once their lives. But their consciences stir them and conflicts within are desperate to be let loose.
The theme of the play represented in its title “Seeds” is more than a glimpse into the subtle valves of the “heart of darkness” like a Joseph Conrad novel. It also speaks of hope and the ability for a person to heal and move on. While the three soldiers struggle with their tightly held secret, back in France, the French woman whom they left behind hurt and alone is determined to live and love again. With the seeds her fiancee gives her she plants flowers in the fields.
The 90-minute play alternates the three locations of France, England and the USA, as well as the four years of 1944, ’45, ’46 and ’47, immediately after WWII. It unfolds like a montage and even though the venue is small, it is easy to envision this production as a screenplay for Netflix, Amazon or even PBS. Over the past year, there have been at least 36 period-piece dramas on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. No doubt this all-original play would find a place among them for today’s diverse audiences.
No doubt Kobori and her cast of exceptional players will be amazing audiences with another well-executed production. “Seeds” will be performed from now until March 24, on Fridays and Saturdays beginning at 7 PM at PianoFight 144 Taylor Street (at Eddy), San Francisco. To purchase tickets visit eventbrite page.
-Written and submitted by Jonathan Farrell, a San Francisco Bay Area journalist and writer