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Monday, October 10, 2016

"We Hold These Truths" @ Portland Center Stage

One of the thnigs I love most about art-and perhaps theatre in particular-is its ability to distill otherwise complex subjects into personal stories. Our textbooks tell us of the overall subject of Japanese Internment, but I had never heard of Gordon Hirabayashi, the college student who took his case against internment all the way to the Supreme Court. The best moments of "Hold These Truths" involve the reactions at various levels of government to Hirabayashi's defiance. The degree of unpreparedness is a brilliant example of both the injustice and ineffectiveness of internment itself.

Another bit of history brought to light and life by "Hold These Truths" is the discrimination and segregation faced by Japanese Americans during the run-up to American entry into World War II, especially here on the West Coast. Usually such things are thought of as a Southern shame.

"We Hold These Truths" is a brisk and energetic show, Hirabayashi is an ever-engaging charismatic character. This makes it all the worse when we see our country not live up to its ideals.

The play is eye-opening, and educational, (though that word is so dry I hesitate to use it, because "Hold These Truths never feels like a history-lesson.) See Hirabayashi's story, and get more of the "whole story" than you knew.

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