VALLEY OF THE HEART

Critics

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75 %

Reviews: 16

Audience

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Reviews: 0

Luis Valdez, the legendary creator of Zoot Suit and hero of the Latino theatre (The New York Times), returns to the Taper with a sweeping new epic examining the difficult divide between America's ideals and its actions in this quintessentially California play, written by a master of the genre.

The Yamaguchis and the Montaños are two immigrant families struggling to provide a future for their American-born children after the Great Depression on the farmland they share. But as their oldest children fall in love—secretly—the attack on Pearl Harbor throws these Mexican and Japanese American families into uncertainty and turmoil. When the Yamaguchis are interned along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, allegiances are tested, heroes are made, and the two young lovers must find a way to stay loyal to each other—and their country.

Presented in Association with El Teatro Campesino

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Reviews

"In the darkness, desperation plays a vital role in the through-line of becoming one family once again. The end is reflective of the beginning in Luis Valdez's play. The storyteller should not be lost during the course of the actions on stage. But, is there more of a dramatic ending to be had? Possibly, we should see those who made it and maybe those that didn't. And we should see that in dramatic fashion."

sweet-sour - Joe Straw - Joe Straw #9 - ...read full review


Shari Barrett
"Every single aspect of this production is top notch from Valdez's brilliantly written script and impeccable quick-paced direction, Review: VALLEY OF THE HEART Recounts a Cross-Cultural Love Surviving World War IIto the entire cast who perfectly portray each of the characters so thoroughly you will walk out sensing real emotional ties to all of them, beginning with Melanie Arii Mah and Lakin Valdez as the young lovers, Thelma Yamaguchi and Benjamin Montaño. You will find yourself on their side from their childhood flirtations in the fields to their illicit love affair when she was engaged to scholarly Calvin Sakamoto (Scott Keiji Takeda), her unplanned bi-cultural pregnancy just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, to their quickie marriage and the ensuing hardship they endured when her family was sent to an internment camp in the Wyoming dust bowl while Ben stayed behind to care for the farm and watch it grow to 300 acres, supplying food to American troops."

sweet - Shari Barrett - Broadway World - ...read full review


"Valdez's sweeping historical tale takes place on John Iacovelli's rustic, multi-layered set which is framed by David Murakami's video projections and tall, upstage Japanese screens. The playwright directs the talented ensemble with his customary skill and bravura."

sweet - Willard Manus - Total Theater - ...read full review


"For 160 minutes, the show vacillates between compelling, sometimes touching, storytelling and characters who spout statistics, facts and figures, right down to the type of food they're eating for breakfast. Sometimes, the script smacks of agit-prop a la The Normal Heart, as if to incite us to anger; but the tactic backfires, because the information-drenched speeches, rife as they are with artificial dialogue, aren't always character-defining."

sweet-sour - Tony Frankel - Stage and Cinema - ...read full review


Eric A Gordon
"The play has something of a rustic Romeo and Juliet quality insofar as the son Benjamin Montaño (Lakin Valdez) and daughter Thelma “Teruko” Yamaguchi (Melanie Arii Mah) fall in love. That relationship will become the central, driving theme of the play. This couple was modeled on an interracial couple that Valdez actually knew as a child. All might have evolved smoothly, once the family objections were overcome, were it not for an unfortunate stroke of history: Pearl Harbor. After the Yamaguchis are interned along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, new unanticipated questions arise. What allegiance do the Japanese Americans claim? What makes this one a war hero and that one a militant civil rights resister? How are Ben and Thelma to remain loyal to their families, their country and one another? This subject matter is also treated in the musical Allegiance that starred George Takei. The song “White Christmas” played on the camp radio never sounded so white until now. At the same time that life has become a living hell for the detainees, war production ironically opens up other opportunities for the Mexican Americans. The story is framed by Ben, in a wheelchair now and aging gracefully, recalling the characters and events he lived through."

sweet - Eric A Gordon - People's World - ...read full review


"Go See Valley of the Heart at the Mark Taper Forum... One walks away reflecting on the injustice today's immigrants are facing as they struggle to provide a future for their American-born children. It's eerily a repeat of history as our current administration pulls apart families and separates them into relocation camps."

sweet - Jill Weinlein - Dine and Travel - ...read full review


"Sweet, timely and picturesque, “Valley of the Heart” tells of an earlier chapter in in American history when our nation behaved badly."

sweet-sour - Dany Margolies - Daily News - ...read full review


"To be clear, the intentions that went into this production are unquestionably honorable, but the results, which remain uneven, cannot help but prompt thoughts of what might have been."

sweet-sour - Sylvie Drake - Cultural Weekly - ...read full review


Patrick Chavis
"Valley of the Heart weaves a strong narrative by avoiding spectacle and instead keeps the story grounded with interesting characters and a strong message about humanity."

sweet - Patrick Chavis - LA Theatre Bites - Podcast - ...read full review


"“Valley of the Heart” sometimes seems to be shaped along the lines of a soap opera. It's not just that there's so much momentous action. Valdez adopts an “and then this happened” approach to the storytelling. The plot swells like an old-fashioned novel, and with so much material the broadly drawn characters can get lost in the shuffle... Valdez's focus is on the American story, which is to say on the story of immigrants. Politics informs the narrative path, but the overriding agenda is one of compassion and common humanity. The play is an oasis from cable news."

sweet - Daryl H. Miller - LA Times - ...read full review


Tin Pan L.A.
"Proclaimed by president Barack Obama for “bringing Chicano culture to American drama”, playwright Luis Valdez's(most notably known for Zoot Suit) latest play Valley of the Heart brings both Chicano and Japanese culture to the stage. Based on Valdez's life experiences as a child growing up on farms in the Central Valley, the play tells what happened when the Japanese American farmers were sent to internment camps during WWII, then consequently forced to leave their land in the care of their Mexican American workers."

sweet-sour - Tin Pan L.A. - ...read full review


"I told you Valdez is not a subtle writer, and he gives his audience what they (we) want to hear when, late in the play, one of his central characters states: "California is now half Latino and Asian, and there's not a damn thing anybody can do about it." When the lights went down and came up again, the audience, made up of some of the old-time subscribers, but also, amazingly, of a audience of Japanese men and women and Chicano couples, some even dressed in their native attire, hollered out with screams and hoots for their complete appreciation of Valdez's work. His is truly a theater of the people, something perhaps we need in these terribly divisive times. Valdez's play is about bringing communities together, and it works. Let us now praise famous men."

sweet - Douglas Messerli - US Theater - ...read full review


Steven Stanley
"Though far from a bad play, Valley Of The Heart isn't nearly the great one it aims to be. It's admirable that the Yamaguchis' and Montaños' stories are being told, but they deserve a less hackneyed, more nuanced telling than this Mark Taper Forum World Premiere."

sweet-sour - Steven Stanley - Stage Scene LA - ...read full review


"Valley of the Heart filled my heart with joy, sadness, and the affecting energy of the Teatro Style. Its all one could ask for. I left the theatre with a buoyant heart and great appreciation. See this show!"

sweet - Paul Myrvold - Theatre Notes - ...read full review


Travis Michael Holder
"There's another culture clash that hangs over Luis Valdez' epic and often leaves it feeling rudimentary and basically unfinished. Despite the exceptionally slick production values available to and implemented by the venerable Center Theatre Group, there's a clash between those spectacular theatrical appointments and the simple folksy nature of Valdez' script, a feeling, especially considering the glaringly uneven performances delivered by the ensemble cast, that leaves the piece seeming as though it might still be more successful being performed in the back of one of those flatbed trucks in the middle of a field in Delano in the storied early days of El Teatro Campesino."

sweet-sour - Travis Michael Holder - TicketHolders LA - ...read full review


Erin Conley
"Ultimately, many of the twists and turns feel predictable. While the subject matter is certainly relevant, moving, and timely today, this specific story is full of melodrama. This feeling largely comes across due to many of the performances, which are very soap-operatic and over-the-top."

sweet-sour - Erin Conley - On Stage and Screen - ...read full review


"In the darkness, desperation plays a vital role in the through-line of becoming one family once again. The end is reflective of the beginning in Luis Valdez's play. The storyteller should not be lost during the course of the actions on stage. But, is there more of a dramatic ending to be had? Possibly, we should see those who made it and maybe those that didn't. And we should see that in dramatic fashion."

sweet-sour - Joe Straw - Joe Straw #9 - ...read full review


Shari Barrett
"Every single aspect of this production is top notch from Valdez's brilliantly written script and impeccable quick-paced direction, Review: VALLEY OF THE HEART Recounts a Cross-Cultural Love Surviving World War IIto the entire cast who perfectly portray each of the characters so thoroughly you will walk out sensing real emotional ties to all of them, beginning with Melanie Arii Mah and Lakin Valdez as the young lovers, Thelma Yamaguchi and Benjamin Montaño. You will find yourself on their side from their childhood flirtations in the fields to their illicit love affair when she was engaged to scholarly Calvin Sakamoto (Scott Keiji Takeda), her unplanned bi-cultural pregnancy just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, to their quickie marriage and the ensuing hardship they endured when her family was sent to an internment camp in the Wyoming dust bowl while Ben stayed behind to care for the farm and watch it grow to 300 acres, supplying food to American troops."

sweet - Shari Barrett - Broadway World - ...read full review


"Valdez's sweeping historical tale takes place on John Iacovelli's rustic, multi-layered set which is framed by David Murakami's video projections and tall, upstage Japanese screens. The playwright directs the talented ensemble with his customary skill and bravura."

sweet - Willard Manus - Total Theater - ...read full review


"For 160 minutes, the show vacillates between compelling, sometimes touching, storytelling and characters who spout statistics, facts and figures, right down to the type of food they're eating for breakfast. Sometimes, the script smacks of agit-prop a la The Normal Heart, as if to incite us to anger; but the tactic backfires, because the information-drenched speeches, rife as they are with artificial dialogue, aren't always character-defining."

sweet-sour - Tony Frankel - Stage and Cinema - ...read full review


Eric A Gordon
"The play has something of a rustic Romeo and Juliet quality insofar as the son Benjamin Montaño (Lakin Valdez) and daughter Thelma “Teruko” Yamaguchi (Melanie Arii Mah) fall in love. That relationship will become the central, driving theme of the play. This couple was modeled on an interracial couple that Valdez actually knew as a child. All might have evolved smoothly, once the family objections were overcome, were it not for an unfortunate stroke of history: Pearl Harbor. After the Yamaguchis are interned along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, new unanticipated questions arise. What allegiance do the Japanese Americans claim? What makes this one a war hero and that one a militant civil rights resister? How are Ben and Thelma to remain loyal to their families, their country and one another? This subject matter is also treated in the musical Allegiance that starred George Takei. The song “White Christmas” played on the camp radio never sounded so white until now. At the same time that life has become a living hell for the detainees, war production ironically opens up other opportunities for the Mexican Americans. The story is framed by Ben, in a wheelchair now and aging gracefully, recalling the characters and events he lived through."

sweet - Eric A Gordon - People's World - ...read full review


"Go See Valley of the Heart at the Mark Taper Forum... One walks away reflecting on the injustice today's immigrants are facing as they struggle to provide a future for their American-born children. It's eerily a repeat of history as our current administration pulls apart families and separates them into relocation camps."

sweet - Jill Weinlein - Dine and Travel - ...read full review


"Sweet, timely and picturesque, “Valley of the Heart” tells of an earlier chapter in in American history when our nation behaved badly."

sweet-sour - Dany Margolies - Daily News - ...read full review


"To be clear, the intentions that went into this production are unquestionably honorable, but the results, which remain uneven, cannot help but prompt thoughts of what might have been."

sweet-sour - Sylvie Drake - Cultural Weekly - ...read full review


Patrick Chavis
"Valley of the Heart weaves a strong narrative by avoiding spectacle and instead keeps the story grounded with interesting characters and a strong message about humanity."

sweet - Patrick Chavis - LA Theatre Bites - Podcast - ...read full review


"“Valley of the Heart” sometimes seems to be shaped along the lines of a soap opera. It's not just that there's so much momentous action. Valdez adopts an “and then this happened” approach to the storytelling. The plot swells like an old-fashioned novel, and with so much material the broadly drawn characters can get lost in the shuffle... Valdez's focus is on the American story, which is to say on the story of immigrants. Politics informs the narrative path, but the overriding agenda is one of compassion and common humanity. The play is an oasis from cable news."

sweet - Daryl H. Miller - LA Times - ...read full review


Tin Pan L.A.
"Proclaimed by president Barack Obama for “bringing Chicano culture to American drama”, playwright Luis Valdez's(most notably known for Zoot Suit) latest play Valley of the Heart brings both Chicano and Japanese culture to the stage. Based on Valdez's life experiences as a child growing up on farms in the Central Valley, the play tells what happened when the Japanese American farmers were sent to internment camps during WWII, then consequently forced to leave their land in the care of their Mexican American workers."

sweet-sour - Tin Pan L.A. - ...read full review


"I told you Valdez is not a subtle writer, and he gives his audience what they (we) want to hear when, late in the play, one of his central characters states: "California is now half Latino and Asian, and there's not a damn thing anybody can do about it." When the lights went down and came up again, the audience, made up of some of the old-time subscribers, but also, amazingly, of a audience of Japanese men and women and Chicano couples, some even dressed in their native attire, hollered out with screams and hoots for their complete appreciation of Valdez's work. His is truly a theater of the people, something perhaps we need in these terribly divisive times. Valdez's play is about bringing communities together, and it works. Let us now praise famous men."

sweet - Douglas Messerli - US Theater - ...read full review


Steven Stanley
"Though far from a bad play, Valley Of The Heart isn't nearly the great one it aims to be. It's admirable that the Yamaguchis' and Montaños' stories are being told, but they deserve a less hackneyed, more nuanced telling than this Mark Taper Forum World Premiere."

sweet-sour - Steven Stanley - Stage Scene LA - ...read full review


"Valley of the Heart filled my heart with joy, sadness, and the affecting energy of the Teatro Style. Its all one could ask for. I left the theatre with a buoyant heart and great appreciation. See this show!"

sweet - Paul Myrvold - Theatre Notes - ...read full review


Travis Michael Holder
"There's another culture clash that hangs over Luis Valdez' epic and often leaves it feeling rudimentary and basically unfinished. Despite the exceptionally slick production values available to and implemented by the venerable Center Theatre Group, there's a clash between those spectacular theatrical appointments and the simple folksy nature of Valdez' script, a feeling, especially considering the glaringly uneven performances delivered by the ensemble cast, that leaves the piece seeming as though it might still be more successful being performed in the back of one of those flatbed trucks in the middle of a field in Delano in the storied early days of El Teatro Campesino."

sweet-sour - Travis Michael Holder - TicketHolders LA - ...read full review


Erin Conley
"Ultimately, many of the twists and turns feel predictable. While the subject matter is certainly relevant, moving, and timely today, this specific story is full of melodrama. This feeling largely comes across due to many of the performances, which are very soap-operatic and over-the-top."

sweet-sour - Erin Conley - On Stage and Screen - ...read full review