Anzu Lawson Finds Her True North in ‘Dear Yoko’

By Ernest Kearney — First and foremost, one leaves Dear Yoko with the appreciation that Anzu Lawson has lived one heck of a life, and she is a powerhouse of a performer.


The child of a Korean-Japanese mother, a remnant of the “comfort women” brought from Korea to Japan during the war as sex workers, and an American GI who disappears from the picture quickly enough.


Lawson muses on being invisible in the Caucasian world of Southern California, wondering what an Asian Partridge Family would be like with the occasional aside that:
“The only reason Asian parents have kids is that they don’t want to pay for translators.”


So far so good.


But the gears get jammed into hyper-drive once Lawson tells us how her mother kidnaps her and her younger sister back to Japan to escape a custody battle with her husband.


Once in Japan the teenage Lawson’s fledgling modeling career explodes, and from there she finds herself hurled into the slick and glittering world of Japan’s ubiquitous girl bands.


Lawson rises to the top of the teen charts in Japan and finds herself rubbing elbows with international music giants, such as the Rolling Stones, when they tour Asia. Lawson, for her part, finds a freedom she desperately needs from her domineering and possessive mother:


“Being in the spotlight,” she observes, “was the safest place to grow up in.”


Lawson eventually returns to America where she goes from teen superstar to waitressing, tumbling into the fast life and free fall of trying to make it in Hollywood where drugs, betrayal and the mine field of the pre-#MeToo movement industry await her; all the while struggling to find the power to be herself in a jungle of those who want to dominate her for their own ends.


Throughout it all, Lawson counterpoints her struggles with those of Yoko Ono whom she elevates to Super Hero status:


“Faster than a speeding bullet, able to break up the world’s greatest band!”


Lawson’s rendering of Ono is surgically precise.


Solidly written by Lawson and Joerg Stoeffel, Dear Yoko is both moving and entertaining, in addition to being a superb showcase for Lawson’s talents. And there is a great deal worthy of showcasing.


Lawson touches every base here; actress, standup personality and singer bringing it all home for the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.


Oddly enough, it was my lovely wife Marlene who, while she also loved the show, brought up an interesting criticism of it.


Lawson spends the show relating how she’s seeking to escape from the efforts of others to define who she is and what she can be. And in the end, she does achieve this to a certain extent, but only in assuming the self-imposed definition of her identification with Ono.


This may seem a slight blemish, and perhaps it is, but it is also an astute observation.


Dear Yoko is a wonderful show and, one, well-worth seeing.


But a show either dedicated entirely to Yoko’s story or one solely focusing on Lawson, would more than likely be perfect for the talents of the talented Ms. Lawson.


♦♦♦

Dear Yoko
“official selection” for
SOLOFEST 2020


Played
February 2, 2020


at the


The Whitefire Theatre
13500 Ventura Blvd.,
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest’s stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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