‘Ah world peace, but maybe all peace starts on an intimate level’. The character of Nobuo Fujita (Dylan McCombs) speaks these words as one of the spirits of a Redwood tree. Playwright Kathleen Tomoko considers questions of peace in her new play The Forgiveness Tree by placing the conflicts of two sisters as they come to terms with their mother’s death, within the backdrop of the history of Nobuo Fujita’s life. Tomko’s play uses a slice of Oregon’s history as a core around which she successfully weaves a riveting story. Fujita was a pilot and member of the submarine aircraft carrier which conducted the only wartime aircraft-dropped bombing on the continental United States of America at a site near Brookings, Oregon. Twenty years after the war, Fujita returns to Brookings to donate his family’s 400-year-old Samurai sword to the community. Over the years, he made several more visits and on one of the visits planted a Redwood tree at the bomb site to symbolize the search for peace. On his death in 1997 a portion of his ashes were scattered around the tree.
Set in the forest with the Redwood tree centre stage, the play moves deftly between Fujita’s life and experience as he determines to bomb the forest for the good of the Japanese Empire, the mother, Martha’s life (Dawn-Hunter Strobel), her daughters, Lainie (Carol Adams) and Maggie (Chelsea Janzen), and the onsite history of a small-town meeting in which a community comes to terms with the past. Linking these stories is the esoteric dimension of the redwood tree souls, Fujita and Martha, who have come together after death, it seems, to work as soulmates for peace.
Tomko’s play allows for understanding to dawn in both the characters and the audience as preconceptions, prejudices and old family business come to light. Carol Adams gives a side-splitting performance as Mrs. Berry, one of the townsfolk at the meeting, and Chelsea Janzen shows us her fine acting chops with a fierce display of the furious Bob Henry, the town nuisance and bully. Director, Susan Coromel carefully stages the reading to highlight the complex themes regarding family relationships, death, love, war and peace. The sound/lighting (Rachel Kinsman Steck) and set design (Robert Vaughn) provide a guide to locate your imagination for each scene. The Forgiveness Tree is part memory play, part magic realism and part social drama that engages Oregon’s history to ponder what are the paths to peace.
Theatre 33 earned its name in honor of Oregon being the thirty-third state to join the union. This innovative company continues its focus on new plays by Oregon authors in its 5th summer season. All staged readings are set in Oregon and Washington.
Upcoming Plays at Theatre 33
Martine Out Of Time by Nora Douglass, July 19-22
Amanda Transcending by Connie Bennett, August 9-12
A Christmas Carol, A 1940’s Radio Show, adapted by Thomas Nabhan from the short story by Charles Dickens, December 20-23
M. Lee Pelton Theatre Building,
Willamette University (off 12th Street).
Price: Tickets are $10 as suggested donation.
Box Office: 971-599-1029 Theatre33org@gmail.com