By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Arts & Entertainment
“I’m not sure how much I can look like I’m in my 80s, but that’s my part in this play,” said Naoyuki Ikeda, flashing a wide, leprechaun-esque smile.
The 40-ish Nagoya-born actor plays an elderly restaurant patron, as part of the ensemble cast who will take the stage this weekend in a production of “Imported Bride,” playing Friday and Saturday at the Armstrong Theatre in Torrance.
Based on a novel by Chang Jinyi, the story is set in a small 1990s cafe in L.A.’s Chinatown. The bachelor cook at the restaurant suffers a disfiguring kitchen accident that leaves him convinced that he will never find love.
Ikeda is one of the cast of characters of staff and customers that all have their own dreams and desires. He plays a widower who befriends the immigrant waitress and takes her under his wing as if she were his child.
“This play asks many questions about what is love, what is culture, how family relationships are defined,” Ikeda said. “My character, who was heartbroken after the death of his wife, finds reasons to live when the waitress becomes like his own daughter.”
The play also features Mike Hagiwara, Alison Minami and Doris Usui.
Ikeda said the theme of food as culture, as a thing to be shared, is central to all the emotions of “Imported Bride.”
“It’s difficult to survive in a foreign culture, to find your place and feel at home,” he explained. “In the play, the chef, the waitress, the customers, all become a kind of family.”
“Imported Bride” will be performed Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, at the Armstrong Theatre, 3330 Civic Center Dr. in Torrance. Both shows begin at 8 p.m. For tickets or more information, call (310) 781-7171, or visit www.torrancearts.org.