Theatre Review - Blood - Do You Live Or Die By It?


Sohee Park, Alexa Hamilton, Miho Ando, Kazumi Aihara, Saki Miata- Blood - photo by Ed Krieger

Blood.  It gives life.  It also gives death…something the Japanese government officials discovered  in 1983 when they got into bed with the Bayer people  who sold them HIV tainted blood from America.   Giving the diseased product to their hemophiliac patients, the Japanese Health Ministery  continued to insist that pure blooded Japanese would be immune to the fatal illness.


Alexa Hamilton and Takuma Anzai- Blood - photo by Ed Krieger

Only when a Jewish-American reporter Jules (Alexa Hamilton) goes to Japan to visit a sick friend does she stumble onto the conspiracy. Despite attempts on her life, she fights for the people with the help of attorney Yoji Kurosawa (Sohee Park.)


Toshi Toda- Blood - photo by Ed Krieger

 The scandal triggered public outrage with crimes against high ministry of health officials and the testimony of a leading doctor, Dr. Kazama (Toshi Toda) in the field of hemophilia.  The trial, itself, lasted over a decade as the shame and exposure of the victims and their families in a society that valued privacy and a deferential attitude as well as a fear of authority was not settled until Feb 25, 2000.  This true landmark decision raised the standard for corporate accountability in Japan. 


Sohee Park and Kazumi Aihara- Blood - photo by Ed Krieger

 The government officials profited from the deaths of many, yet never accepted responsibility for their crimes though several pharmaceutical executives did serve time for selling the poisoned blood.  They systematically faked records to cover their wrongdoing.  


In light of events like Flint, Michigan’s waters and the gas leak in Porter Ranch this play holds an accountability to all.  


Kazumi Aihara, Alexa Hamilton, Saki Miata- Blood - photo by Ed Krieger

Winner of the Obie, New York Outer Critics Circle Award, DGA Award and two-time Golden Globe /Emmy Award nominee, author Robert Allan Ackerman, who lived in Japan for a number of years, not only wrote but directed this political musical thriller – which blended factd and fiction - about the “Japanese Tainted Blood Scandal” that killed nearly 2,000 from AIDs.  


“The Ministers of Japan” - Blood - photo by Ed Krieger -ensemble

In the play, which is the debut production for The Garage – a new theatre company and includes numerous original songs with music by “The Virgins” bassist Nick Ackerman and “jet” drummer/vocalist Chris Cester.  Much of the musical performances as “The Vampire Doctor of Shinjuki,” “The Green Hope Song,” “Caught With Their Fingers In the Jar,” and “Gentlemen of the Bar” are reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan dance songs. The music is both funny and meaningful. 


Ensemble -Takaaki Hirakawa,Mika Santoh, Michael Joseph, Miho Ando (center), Ash Ashina, Takuma Anzai- Blood - photo by Ed Krieger

Stars (in alphabetical order) are Kazumi Aihara, Miho Ando, Takuma Anzai, Ash Ashina, Anthony Gros, Takaaki Hirakawa, Michael Joseph, Alexa Hamilton, Saki Miata,  Andrew Nakajima, Daryl L. Padilla, Sohee Park,  Mika Santoh, Taishin Takibayashi, and Toshi Toda. 


The marvelously simple set and costumes were done by Dona Granata, which projection design by Hana S. Kim.   Lighting was done by Donny Jackson and sound by Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski.  Bob Garrett was the vocal coach and Benjamin Scuglia managed the stage.  Publicity was the ever popular Lucy Pollak


This is a dramady that you will want to see more than once and hopefully will continue past its current run and perhaps into film, as well. 


Blood runs from February 26 until April 3, 2016, with performances on Fridays at 8 pm,  Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 3 pm at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, Ca 90038. Ticket prices are $25-30 and can be had by calling 323 960 7745 or Plays411.  Valet parking is available as street parking is sometimes difficult to find.  

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