In a new play produced by The Coterie in Kansas City’ Crown Center, Hana Brady’s suitcase hides her secret story that develops and unfolds as two Japanese students use modern technology to trace Hana’s past, discover the powerful story that her suitcase hides, and make her memory relaxant long after her passing.
“Hana’s Suitcase” presents a compelling Holocaust story full of mystery, adventure, loving, and learning in a play suitable for young adults and older audiences. Reminiscent of the iconic, “Diary of Anne Frank,” this story develops a story that mixes three cultures to encapsulate the end results. Yes, Hana dies, as did millions of children victims, but this story contains depth, heart, and truths not expressed in Frank’s diary.
This is one show all families should view. The Coterie prides itself in children’s programming, but this timeless story appeals to young and old alike. Because of the nature of the story, under 10 may find it too tragic. When The Coterie gets hold of a piece like this one, stand back and be captivated and amazed. This is just another example of why The Coterie receives national attention.
“Hana’s Suitcase,” written by Emil Sher falls into the capable directing hands of Kansas City’s Walter Coppage and is based on the book by Karen Levine. Trust the fact that Coppage assembled a magnificent cast to produce this exciting spell-binding mystery and globe-trotting adventure to unravel and piece together Hana’s story. For “Hana’s Suitcase,” The Coterie Theatre joined with UMKC Theatre students to tell the dramatic, true story to Japan and brings the mystery to light through eager students in Japan. “Hana’s Suitcase” also created a partnership with Tradewind Art and the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education. The play runs 70 minutes with no intermission and runs through Feb. 12.
“ Fumiko Ishioka, a Japanese Holocaust educator, and her students set out to track down information about a suitcase from Auschwitz,” The Coterie said. “It becomes a worldwide search for information about its owner, Hana Brady, whose fate they must piece together from her suitcase and artifacts. Hana’s story reaches through time into the lives of the young Japanese students in a Holocaust story like no other – providing a contemporary global perspective and a fascinating history of love and tragedy from Hana’s courageous life story.”
“Hana’s Suitcase” created a vast array of emotions. The drama contains some lighter moments, even with the fate of the young Hana predetermined. The story envelops the audience in the first scene, and as the play continued, watching the audience reaction added to the enjoyment of the play. Eyes filled with tears, smiles, hankies to eyes, members leaning forward in anticipation, sharp focus on important scenes all could be seen throughout the production. And, as the lights dimmed, audience members standing to show their approval almost as soon as the play ends.
What makes the play so horrific and more real than others is the delivery of the rules and laws that keep boxing the Jews in. They must wear a star to identify them; they are not allowed to see a movie; children are banned from school; children are banned from parks; Jews have curfews; Jews can only shop in certain stores; and, the list goes on. Each one brings a new reality and horror to the Brady family and the effect on Hana and her brother George. The grim reality brings more truth to light than other similar plays.
The cast of Hana’s Suitcase will feature Andi Meyer (as Fumiko Ishioka), Un Joo Christopher (as Maiko), Eric Palmquist (as Akira), Josephine Pellow (as Hana Brady), Zach Faust (as Young George Brady), Andy Garrison (as Adult George Brady, et al.), Leah Swank-Miller (as Ludmila, et al.), and Michael Shawn Wilson (as Kurt, et al.).
Andi Meyer, Un Joo Christopher, and Eric Palmquist set the tone for the story as they create the back-story of a Japanese instructor and two students working on an upcoming exhibit about the Holocaust. Their only piece being a suitcase with the name and birthday of Hana Brady. All three work so well together one would think they are the real people searching for answers. Their inquisitiveness into the real story on Hana Brady drives the piece. Meyer just gives a strong focus as the instructor as she encourages and stimulates the learning process Un Jo Christopher gives a very subtle character that digs in when Akira gets too rambunctious. Eric Palmquist provides the overly-eager beaver character, much animated, of Akira. Palmquist pushes the character to extremes enthusiastic without going too far and making the character phony. The threesome provide good, strong, grounded characters.
Josephine Pellow (as Hana Brady), Zach Faust (as Young George Brady) give touching performances as the children affected by the Nazi rules. Their young lives keep changing and their world keeps shrinking. Pellow give a tender performance that remains sad, but not tragic. Even knowing her fate, the audience emphasizes with her. Faust, gives a lighter performance as the older brother who understands what’s happening around the family but remains strong and upbeat for his sister.
Andy Garrison, Leah Swank-Miller, and Michael Shawn Wilson perform a myriad of characters throughout the piece, Each character displays different costumes, relationships and characters, that fit so tightly together that there is no problem differentiating characters they portray.
The creative force behind “Hana’s Suitcase” contained a mix of Coterie staff and UMKC Theatre students getting their taste for professional theater in the KC Metro. The artistic and production company includes Walter Coppage (director), William J. Christie (production stage manager), Mark Exline (set designer), Victor En Yu Tan and Pamela Meadows (lighting co-designers), Stella Tag (costume designer), Jesús Manuel Rivera (sound designer), Jamie Leonard (projections designer), Nils Emerson (MFA technical director), Sandra Lopez (properties), Bryce Foster (master electrician), Lisa Tinker (MFA production assistant), Daniel Wally (assistant projections designer), Micah Thompson (assistant lighting designer), Ashley Kok (projections technician), and Michael James (production assistant).
The creative team produced a top-quality production and made it seem effortless. The props, lighting, set, costumes and all aspects demonstrated the care needed to produce the type of production The Coterie takes pride in producing.
“Hana’s Suitcase” continues through Feb. 12 at The Coterie on the lower level of Kansas City’s Crown Center, adjoining the food court. Tickets, dates, times, and more information can be found on The Coterie website. Advance reservations guarantee you and your party will not be shut out. This show will and should sell out many performances.
Tags; “Hana’s Suitcase”, The Coterie, Crown Center, Performing Arts, Kansas City Theater, Children’s Theater, Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment