TIGER OF MALAYA by Hiro Kanagawa, directed by Ken Gass, with Denis Akiyama, Ginger Ruriko Busch, Aura Carcueva, Ken James and Jordan Pettle. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to November 9, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Sunday and November 8 at 2 pm. $25-$34, Sunday pwyc-$25. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN
Guilt comes in various forms, and a court isn't always the best place to try a crime. Tiger Of Malaya , Hiro Kanagawa 's often engaging story of the war-crimes trial of Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita, plays with the nature of culpability and innocence on scales both large and small.
After an uncertain start, director Ken Gass 's production grows in power and intensity as a hastily assembled team of American lawyers ( Ken Jame s and Jordan Pettle ) and their translator ( Ginger Ruriko Busch ) try to defend Yamashita ( Denis Akiyama ) against partly vindictive charges. The general initially refuses their help and instead seeks a military execution. He's haunted by a figure ( Aura Carcueva ) from his past whose role only becomes clear in the play's last section.
Kanagawa's characters sometimes feel simplistic, and he parallels the figures too schematically - "You think you feel racism because you're Japanese?" says one character. "Well, I'm Jewish, and I feel it, too" - but the cast does strong work, notably James as a Southern redneck who reveals other sides of his character and Akiyama's complex general, alternately proud, tender, fearful and commanding.