Orange County Theatre Reviews

Ryun Yu, Sab Shimono and Jully Lee in South Coast Repertory's 20

Ryun Yu, Sab Shimono and Jully Lee in South Coast Repertory’s Photo Courtesy : South Coast Rep

Written by Daniella Litvak 

Besides the usual, useful information about cast, crew, and upcoming shows, the program for Tokyo Fish Story includes “A Gajin’s Guide to Sushi,” a one page history/glossary giving you the low down on sushi. Besides making your mouth water, it’s a nice overview of the terminology used throughout the show. I don’t think you’ll get lost if you don’t know what “tamagoyaki” or “noren” means, but I do think knowing what’s being talked adds a little more spice to the experience. I recommend taking a look at it while your anxiously waiting for the curtain.

Now that the prep work is out of the way, lets move on to the main course. Tokyo Fish Story is about… It’ s kind of hard to describe the plot because the play wants to be about a lot of different things. It wants to be story about a great restaurant in decline because customers are choosing gimmicks over quality. It wants to be story about a protégée learning to stand up to his mentor. It wants to be about a man coming to terms with past mistakes served with a side of commentary regarding gender inequality in restaurant kitchens.   And so on.

All of these ideas have potential. Maybe it could have all come together if the play had a longer run time. (It’s 90 minutes and without an intermission). As it stands, this mishmash of ingredients can come across as undercooked. For instance, a businessman tries to tempt Nobu, an apprentice chef, into working for the competition. However, the way the scene is written, although very funny, the offer never tempts Nobu. It’s never brought up afterwards or has any consequences –really undermining the dramatic stakes.

The funny thing is, I didn’t realize any of this until after the show was over. I liked spending 90 minutes (and would be willing to spend more) with these characters. Playwright Kimber Lee has a knack for comedy and dialogue. The acting is fantastic. Each actor brings nuance and vulnerability to their role(s). It’s just a joy to watch them talk about sushi, Star Wars, or hip-hop as they go about their day. There’s quite a bit of pantomiming forced upon them, but they never look ridiculous.

The space is utilized effectively, and the staging is well done. The scene transitions are flawless, and the sound effects and music really add to the atmosphere. I recommend seeing Tokyo Fish Story. Now I’m off to look at a sushi menu.



March 8-28, 2015

Similar drama : check out Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

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