“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” at Book-It Repertory Theatre

Written by the Northwest’s own Jamie Ford about Seattle’s International District this is a sweet production of a bitter time in Seattle and American history. It documents the antagonisms between Japanese and Chinese neighbors, the prejudices of many of their white adversaries, and the destructive and shameful removal of Japanese-American citizens to relocation camps during WW II. But it is also a story of youthful optimism and tender romance in the midst of this frightening environment.

Central to the story are Henry, a young Chinese boy (sensitively played by Jose Abaoag) and a Japanese girl (charmingly played by Stephanie Kim) whose tentative friendship builds to love. Their affecting relationship is sorely tested by the heinous internment and then effectively destroyed by Henry’s father whose own family history has caused him to hate the Japanese.

Adapted and directed by Annie Lareau the production successfully pulls on the strings of your heart. It is, however, over long at almost three hours. Taking book to stage doesn’t require quite so much of the book.

Carey Wong’s set makes use of a number of wonderful floor-to-ceiling photos of the streets of the International District in the 1940s and of Camp Minidoka. But there are many, many interior scenes, and the stage at times resembles a furniture-moving warehouse.

But these are carps. The production is powerful. The acting is excellent. And it’s good to be reminded about how fragile our freedom is.

Through Oct. 28, Book-It Repertory Theatre, Center House Theatre, Seattle Center, (206 216-0833 or www.book-it.org).

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