Salient. The Newspaper of Victoria University College. Vol. 20, No. 7. August 9, 1956
Theatre — Teahouse of the August Moon
Teahouse of the August Moon
From a play which has been running on Broadway since October, 1953, and in the West End since April, 1954, and has won the Pulitxer Prize and other honours, I expected something extremely good. Frankly I was disappointed by the play, which tended to be slow. It needed more variety in mood.
The plot centres around a young American Captain, who is sent to democratise the village of Tobiki in Okinawa. Frisby, the captain is the type of person who thinks that "machines have always been my mortal enemies. I think they're full of malice and ill will." in other words everything he touches somehow goes wrong.
From the beginning it is obvious that the Orientals are not going to be democratised and in fact poor Frisby is going to be Orientalised. When Frisby tries to make some money for the villagers, by selling their home-made brandy to the U.S. Navy, his senior officer. Col. Wain-wright Purdy III (excellently played by Grant Taylor, who surely must have played an infuriated officer in a Bob Hope army film) becomes suspicious that democracy is not being taught in Tobiki, descends on the village to find a Teahouse instead of a school has been built Frisby is put under arrest, and in one well written scene he says goodbye to Lotus Blossom, with whom he has fallen in love.
This scene is full of pathos, but it spoilt the ending of the play, which ends inconclusively, as the colonel is invited into the Teahouse for a cup of "tea." If another scene between the two lovers had appeared nearer the beginning of the play, we would have been prepared for the touching farewell.
Frisby, as acted by John Bonney, was a very nice young American, when he should have been far more at a loss among the array regulations and the natives of Okinawa. The best part in the play is that of Sakini, the interpreter to Frisb" and a commentator to the audience on the action of the play. Harry Chang was on the stage nearly all the time, and he made Sakini a delightful "rare rascal."
The direction was good, if unimaginative. But the scenery was imaginative, simple and attractive.
One other actor who performed with distinction, and did not disgrace herself, was Betty Blue, who played the part of Lady Aster.
An entertaining evening, if hardly worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.