Los Angeles Times

June 9, 2005

 

A 'Pink Dress' worn as a statement of individuality

 

by Rob Kendt

Special to The Times

 

"It brings back a lot of memories," one older patron said as she looked at a barbed-wire fence to the side of Victoria Profitt's set of a World War II-era internment camp, the backdrop for writer-director Leslie K. Gray's short puppet show "The Pink Dress."

 

I'd be surprised if this patron—or anyone in attendance at the Japanese American National Museum—was similarly stirred by Gray's soft-focus play about one young internee, Tsuki, who defies the resigned conformity of her family and peers by wearing the title frock at her junior high graduation inside the camp.

 

Gray deserves credit for targeting not only the anti-Japanese racism that informed the U.S.'s selective wartime internment policy but the deeper, more universal problem of internalized homogeneity—the ways we form into groups and march in lock-step, even when we're not being forced into the line.

 

Her metaphor is "A-ri," or ants, whom Tsuki sees first going stoically about their work, in lovely silhouettes, and later as beguiling, rubbery little puppets in mortarboards, announcing the graduation dress code.

 

Beth Peterson's puppetry, executed smoothly by four puppeteers, is amiably low-tech, and the best moments are wordless: a family tea party, Tsuki's moonlit reverie. But most of the show is pedestrian, literally, plodding about the set for talky scenes enacted to Diane Tanaka's mellifluous voice. These, and Michael A. Gray's nearly nonstop score of soporific flute accompaniment (performed by Patty Sikorski), make "The Pink Dress" closer to a lullaby than a ripping good tale.

 

*

 

'The Pink Dress'

 

Where: Triumvirate Pi Theatre at Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. 1st St., L.A.

 

When: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday and June 18, 11 a.m. Sunday

 

Ends: June 18

 

Price: $4 to $8

 

Info: (213) 625-0414, Ext. 2249

 

Running time: 50 minutes