Hold These Truths is surprising and delightful while also delivering a sobering message about our country’s history. The one-man show tells the story of Gordon Hirabayashi who went to the Supreme Court protesting the Japanese internment during WWII.
In 1942 Hirabayashi was understandably shocked when he, along with anyone else of Japanese descent on the west coast regardless of citizenship, were ordered to report to internment camps. A college student in Seattle at the time, Hirabayashi chose to fight the order, leading him to spend time in jail and eventually bring his case before the Supreme Court.
TheatreWorks’ production of Hold These Truths is perfectly timed. The show is thoughtful, inspiring and poignant—especially in light of recent political events. The title is taken from the Declaration of Independence's statement, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal;that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But right from the start, the script asks the question, can any truth really be self-evident? Is anything so clear that its reality is obvious regardless of the circumstances?
In wartime with widespread hysteria and racism, the liberty of around 12,000 Japanese Americans was not taken as self-evident. Instead, they were forced to sell almost everything they owned and spend the duration of the war behind barbed wire in sub-standard living conditions.
There have been quite a few plays on this subject recently as it becomes more relevant to current events and the last generation who experienced the camps passes away. Jeanne Sakata’s one-man-show however might be the best I’ve seen. She keeps an eye on the larger problem while showcasing the determination of one man to see justice served for his people. She weaves together a story that feels heartbreakingly human but still thoughtful and uplifting.
Joel de la Fuente is spectacular. As the only actor, de la Fuente mainly portrays the gentle, but strong-willed Hirabayashi. However, he also must play every other character that Hirabayashi encounters including parents, girlfriends, friends, lawyers and Supreme Court justices. De la Fuente really captures the gentle spirit of Hirabayashi while still portraying his moral determination to see justice served.
The show is great. Heartbreaking historical decisions are conveyed by an incredible historical figure to create an unforgettable story of an unsung American hero. This one-man show will force you to think about injustice in the past and today while still telling you a heartfelt story.
TheatreWorks’ production of Hold These Truths is playing at the Lucie Stern Theatre (1405 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto) now through August 5, 2018. The show runs about one hour and forty minutes with no intermission. Tickets run $40-$100 with discounts available for groups, seniors, educators.
Photos Courtesy of Kevin Berne