Ayano Review – Dreams and Reality

Kazumi Aihara and Carlo Mancasola in AYANO - Photo by Jenny Graham
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Written by Chris Collins and directed by Kiff Scholl, AYANO tells the tale of a Japanese woman who comes to Los Angeles to become a movie star. She embodies the Western male fantasy of a gentle, charming, and delicate beauty who needs to be protected and loved – a projection that lands her several roles in films and an ex-Marine husband who served bravely in Afghanistan.

Gabriel Pranter and Bara Kim – Photo by Jenny Graham

The play opens five years later. Life has not been kind to Ayano (Kazumi Aihara). Her husband Charlie (Carlo Mancasola) has been laid off from his job. Her brother-in-law Tom (Gabriel Pranter) despises her and keeps warning his brother that she is up to no good. Her career has taken a five-year nosedive, and she has been forced to work as a waitress to make ends meet. She is being pursued by a producer who lent her money and now wants pay-back – and not necessarily in cash. On top of that, Ayano keeps seeing her recently deceased father. Things couldn’t be much worse for Ayano.

Hiro Matsunaga and Kazumi Aihara – Photo by Jenny Graham

AYANO attempts to dig into the motivations that lead to love – and murder. As such, it is a noble calling and one that could be worth the effort. Sad to say, the play does not meet its goals and becomes a clichéd story of the hapless starlet who can’t seem to make it in big bad Hollywood. That the starlet is Japanese might offer a bit of interest, but other than everyone drinking lots of sake and popping seaweed snacks – and a paternal apparition who wears traditional clothing – the cultural issues largely play second fiddle to the triangular tragedy. Even the writer’s attempt to tie up loose ends by offering the audience an epilogue in which everyone is told what happens afterwards falls by the wayside. Ayano is simply not a sympathetic – or even terribly interesting – protagonist. And the audience can easily guess the ending by the first ten or 15 minutes. Try as they might, the actors falter in their attempts to project heart-rending emotion through quasi-hysterical behaviors.

Carlo Mancasola, Kazumi Aihara, and John-Peter Cruz – Photo by Jenny Graham

Add to this some rather intrusive music and fleeting (but sometimes overlong) scenes projected behind the actors from films which have little or nothing to do with the action taking place right in front of them, and AYANO continues to miss the boat. AYANO might appeal to immigrants starting life in a new country – or even to Asians or Asian-Americans who have been waiting for their personal moment on stage. It is certainly laudable that a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales for this production will be donated to the organization Stop Asian Hate.

Kazumi Aihara and Glenn Ratcliffe – Photo by Jenny Graham

AYANO runs through August 7, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Other Space @ The actors Company is located at 916-A N. Formosa Avenue, West Hollywood, CA 90046. Tickets are $25. For information and reservations, go online.

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