Almost 38 years ago, the playwright and Miami native Sandra Riley took a job teaching and directing drama at a US Army Base in Japan. Immersed in the history and culture of a strange new land, she became fascinated by the emperors, samurai, and geisha of this East Asian island. Later, over a period of 12 months, she traveled the country, observing a nation caught between ancient customs and modern yearnings. These experiences were transformative.
Eventually, Riley returned to South Florida where she gradually developed -- researching, planning, writing, and rewriting -- a theatrical paean to her Japan years, Hour of the Tiger
. In the program notes, the playwright reflects on the slow, natural pace of her progress: "In 2005, I began the play. But, in reality, it has been a five-year journey to discover myself and a spiritual quest to live in the moment. The play is about the power of love to support personal and artistic freedom."
And with Kim Ehly and Gwendolyn Lai in the primary roles, Tiger more specifically tells the story of Alexa, an American woman in post-Vietnam Japan, who battles fear and doubt while trying to save a geisha, Sanagi, from her cruel and greedy master.
New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables. Performances are Thursday through Friday at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 1 p.m., running until February 14. Tickets cost $40. 305-443-5909; new-theatre.org.