Blood -Theatre Review

A review by Suzanne Birrell

Alexa Hamilton and Takuma Anzai. Photo by Ed Krieger

Inspired and based on actual events, Blood tells the story of tainted blood, government lies, ethnic prejudice, corporate profits, bumbling bureaucracy, and a trial that lasted a decade. As in any good story, we laugh and cry as we become immersed in the lives of people who loved and lost and who fought the battles. Written and directed by Robert Allan Ackerman and featuring original music and songs by "The Virgins" bassist Nick Ackerman and "Jet" drummer/vocalist Chris Cester, Blood, presented by The Garage at the Ruby Theatre in The Complex is story telling at its absolute finest.

Alexa Hamilton and Takuma Anzai. Photo by Ed Krieger

In the early 1980s, nearly 2,000 people, most of them hemophiliacs, died of AIDS after U.S. companies knowingly sold contaminated blood to Japan, where pharmaceutical companies continued to distribute non-heat-treated blood products despite the existence of heat treatments proven to prevent the spread of infection. Officials in Japan claimed that pure Japanese were immune to the disease. After years of searching for "pure" Japanese who would agree to testify, charges were filed against government officials and executives of the manufacturing company involved. The trial lasted over a decade.

Sohee Park, Alexa Hamilton, Miho Ando, Kazumi Aihara, Saki Miata
Photo by Ed Krieger

The story ofBlood follows American reporter Jules Davis ( Alexa Hamilton) and her quest of discovery with the Japanese-Korean lawyer ( Sohee Park) who heads up the investigation. Takuma Anzai plays the part of their mutual friend (as well as four other roles) whose death sparks their investigation for the truth. Kazumi Aihara plays a hospital nurse who emotionally wrestles with Japanese sense of duty to country and simply doing what is right.

Left: Toshi Toda
Photo by Ed Krieger

Toshi Toda as Dr. Kazema (based on real-life Dr. Takeshi Abe) gives a chilling and riveting performance. When he tells us that pure Japanese are immune to aids we almost believe him. For the first time in my life I understood how a magnetic and fiery personality could rouse a mob to commit atrocities. Mr Toda was absolutely convincing in his performance- so much so that in the final scene we are unsure how he will address Koyo.

Miho Ando provides a stunning performance of Koyo Ninomiya (based on Japan's Councilor Kawada) the young "pure" Japanese hemophiliac and aids victim who simply wanted an apology. Saki Miata plays his mother. Also in the ensemble, playing multiple roles, are Ash Ashina, Anthony Gros, Takaaki Hirakawa, Michael Joseph, Andrew Nakajima, Daryl L. Padilla, Mika Santoh and Taishin Takibayashi.

(Right) Taishin Takibayashi. Photo by Ed Krieger

Blood is a truly ensemble production. While the story is horrific to contemplate, as any survivor knows, humor is the thing that ultimately gets you through. Blood provides ample comic relief in the performances of the Ministers. In a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan meet Japanese Classical meet Charlie Chaplin with a touch of Hair to open the second act, we have ample opportunity to laugh and always in the perfect moment.

The entire production team is to be congratulated on this premiere production from the Garage Theatre Company. Set and costume design by Dona Granata; projections design by Hana S. Kim; lighting design by Donny Jackson; sound design by Joseph "Sloe" Slawinski; vocal coach/arranger, Bob Garrett; assistant costume designer,  Wendell C. Carmichael; and the stage manager is Benjamin Scuglia all contibuted to the magnificent whole. The use of the entire theatre is masterful as is the simple dance of the four red screens.The projections particularly enhanced.

In this masterful theatrical composition Ackerman takes us on a journey of intrigue. Intelligent, thoughtful, powerful and impactful, Blood should be seen and discussed for those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. Highly entertaining, story telling at its absolute finest.

Make your reservations now. An instant standing ovation with shouts of "Bravo" greeted the final bow of this profound production and performances are already sold out in this intimate theatre.

March 5 - April 3
Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m.:

Sundays at 3 p.m.:

The Complex
6476 Santa Monica Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90038

(323) 960-7745 or
twitter: @TheGarage042314

• Fridays and Saturdays: $30
• Sundays: $25

Posted By Suzanne Birrell on March 07, 2016 12:22 pm | Permalink