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LA Theater Review

Harvest

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The clash of cultures can be heard resoundingly all the way from Idaho in Diane Lefer's world premiere play about the slightly forced introduction of an educated, upscale young Chinese woman to the manners and mores of a "typical"--at least by stage standards--middle-American farming family. Daphne (Annie Katsura Roillins), rebelling against the protected environment of her wealthy family, seeks to expand her horizons by volunteering her services to potato farmer Duane (Thomas Craig Elliott); his wife, Bonita (Elizabeth Cava); and the all-in-the-family picking crew who annually work the harvest.

Excellent are Julie Janney as Bonita's sister; Vanessa Rohrer as her precocious teen daughter; Brady Rubin as manipulative Granny; and Brian Sutherin as Cody, son of Bonita but not Duane. Superb performances by Roillins, Cava, Elliott, and Donald Agnelli as the brutal brother/ brother-in-law/ex-lover, along with Jon Lawrence Rivera's always creative and detailed direction, make this a polished and professional piece of theatre, to the extent that one accepts these unfortunately familiar stereotypes as legitimate representatives of East and West, rich and poor, princes and potato farmers.

However, the cast of clichéd characters--the ignorant, racist, incestuous farm denizens, all with the requisite Southern accents (in Idaho?) as opposed to the sophisticated, educated daughter of wealth and Asian tradition--contrive to produce a questionable cultural, class, and racial statement. Poor whites come off very badly in the sociological stakes. They have illegitimacy, an urge toward incest, spousal abuse, fraternal hatred, in-law interference, debauchery, a dearth of familial loyalty, callous cruelty, ignorance and suspicion of "the other," and an excess of all the ills that flesh is heir to.

This is a highly colored, one-sided view of what purports to be the real America that Daphne seeks. After Duane has made the anticipated crude pass at their summer intern, one has to assume that the sharp young woman has put paid to her voyage of intercultural exploration.

John H. Binkley's set design, Bob Blackburn's sound, and Marya Kraklowiak's costumes are part of the sugar that helps the medicine go down.

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