SEVEN OUT, DueEast Theatre Company, at Stage Left Theatre. Keith Uchima was right: Ken Eto is a great subject for a play. A Chicago hood of Japanese descent, Eto was a reverse-image poster boy for the American dream, making his way in the post-WWII mob despite anti-Asian prejudice and Italian domination, succeeding right up to the day a colleague's attempt to whack him sent him into the arms of the FBI. (Succeeding even then, in a sense, since he obtained a new identity, gave testimony that put a lot of important people behind bars, and survived into old age.) Eto's biography is positively saturated with the paradoxes of life in the land of opportunity.
But however great his subject, Uchima hasn't yet managed to deliver a worthy--or even functional--script. Riddled with contradictory intentions, unredeemed cliches, anachronisms, and just plain wrong moves, this lightly fictionalized retelling of the Eto saga is several very intense workshops away from being a made play.
It doesn't help that Allen Sermonia's production is shockingly sloppy. Scenes set in the 1950s shouldn't include men with earrings. Flush mobsters shouldn't be dressed in suit jackets and casual slacks. Major motifs shouldn't be introduced out of nowhere, then used to death. The only reason to see this play in this production is to check out Jason Llamas in the lead role and Jenn Remke as a stripper.