Carving Out a Community ‘Slice’

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Paul Kikuchi’s latest work opened Friday at the 75-seat Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Entertainment Editor

In his list of thank-yous in the playbill for “Slice,” playwright Paul Kikuchi thanked his wife for “telling me to go write a play.”

He did just that, and didn’t need to search hither and yon to put together a cast, crew or even a venue for his latest comedy, which opened Friday and runs through Nov. 18 at the tiny Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena.

“I’ve known Paul for years, and I’m a big fan of his writing,” said Emily Kuroda, who plays matriarch Aiko Matsuda in “Slice.” “It’s a lot of fun, we’re having a great time, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of it.”

Kuroda and the rest of the cast mingled with audience members and supporters at a post-performance reception held Saturday night in the Fremont Centre’s piazza. The gathering had less an air of a Hollywood soiree, but was more akin to a summer backyard barbecue, with longtime friends chatting and catching up on the latest local news.

Scott Keiji Takeda, left, and Aaron Takahashi face off repeatedly in the often screwball comedy, set in 14th-century Japan. (Tina Tong)

Indeed, everyone in the cast was familiar with Kikuchi, if not former players of his work.

Aaron Takahashi, who takes on dual roles in “Slice,” has seen his career in television and feature films take off nicely in recent years. His return to community theater is simply for the love of the medium.

“It’s fun. It’s a really good cast and I’ve worked with Paul and [director Jeff Liu]before, and part of it is giving back to the community,” Takahashi said. “The script is fun; I get to play two characters, which is something I’ve never done before.”

Kikuchi said he was very lucky that other cast members, namely Kuroda and Mike Hagiwara, were available, as he has admired their work over the years.

“Slice” is set in 14th-century Japan, but immediately establishes its 21st-century dialogue, which makes liberal use of modern colloquialisms heard on high school campuses. The story follows Kai (Scott Takeda), whose skills as a blacksmith and repairman of samurai armor have much to be desired. Undaunted, he aspires to create the ultimate sword for Lord Ito, the local constable, played by Hagiwara.

Things get dicey when Kai and his mother, Aiko,  take in the runaway Fumi (Elizabeth Ho), who is under the thumb of Lord Ito’s rival Watanabe, played by Takahashi, who doubles as Ito’s sidekick, Tashiro.

Kikuchi’s two previous works, “Ixnay” and “Wrinkles,” both enjoyed positive reviews during their runs at the East West Players in Little Tokyo. He always seems to be writing and said that anytime a play of his is taken up for production is a blessing.

“I’ve been very fortunate that this has happened,” he said. “I’m thrilled that ‘Slice’ has been picked up by the Metamorphosis Theatre Company at the Fremont. It’s been a good ride, a fun ride.”
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“Slice” performs Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons at the Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave. in South Pasadena. Tickets $25, $20 for students and seniors. Call (877) MTC-8777 for information.

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