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LA Theater Review


Paul Kikuchi's mildly raunchy, innuendo-packed farce-comedy is billed as "A sticky comedy about sex, lies, and Tiger Balm." It lives up to its billing. When lawyer and single mom Nancy Fukutani (Amy Hill) finds a Trader Joe's shopping bag of sex toys in her garage, her first thought is that it belongs to her 17-year-old son Jason (Ki Hong Lee). And if so, he may be struggling with his sexual identity: Why else would he be watching "The Iron Chef" on the Food Network? Jason hotly denies that the bag belongs to him and insists he's not gay. Nancy soon finds that the culprit is her 73-year-old father, Harry (Sab Shimono). He needs the supplies because he has become an unlikely porn star for a Japanese concern specializing in elderporn, which apparently is big business in Japan. He has become a hero and reigning superstar for a whole generation of elders.

Jason is tickled to discover his grandpa's new career, but Nancy is appalled, particularly because she's currently handling a sexual harassment case that involves porn and fears a scandal could jeopardize it. She's even more upset when Harry's miniskirted, 19-year-old scene partner Teena (Elizabeth Ho), who finds him cute, turns up to escort him to the final shoot for the series.

Kikuchi's script is very much in sitcom style, driven by the pursuit of laughs rather than character or plot. He manages to make porn seem as American as Mom's apple pie and as Japanese as Mt. Fuji. But the piece is funny in low-brow fashion. Still, there's something a little creepy about the family joining together at the end to inspect nude photos of now-deceased Grandma.

Jeff Liu provides slick direction, and his accomplished cast performs expertly. Ki Hong Lee provides considerable charm as naïve-but-eager Jason, and Hill skillfully navigates an improbable character arc that requires her to go from profound disapproval to lending her living room for the porn shoot. Shimono reveals a rakish charm as the foxy Grandpa, occasionally calling to mind Maurice Chevalier. And Ho adroitly sketches the faux-naïve porn starlet, who eventually admits to giving the porn director a blowjob in order to get hired. Alan E. Muraoka provides the handsome, pastel-toned set.

Presented by East West Players at the David Henry Hwang, Theater at the Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., L.A.  Feb. 16–Mar. 13. Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.  (213) 625-7000.

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