• "Blood" at The Complex (Photo - TheGarage).

      “Blood” at The Complex (Photo – TheGarage).

      Way more than I expected, way more than I knew.

      Although I was well aware of the alarming beginning of the AIDS epidemic of the early ’80’s, and even worked part time during those years preparing medical reports for doctors doing AIDS research at UCLA and treating patients in their private practice, I do not recall hearing of this incident.

      By Carol Edger Germain

      The US government knowingly sold AIDS-infected blood to Japan to use for transfusions, mostly to hemophiliacs, and the Japanese government shortcut the procedures by skipping heat treatment of the blood, which would have prevented the spread of infection – the perfect storm for nearly 2,000 innocent deaths. Ethnic arrogance was also involved – high-ranking Japanese officials believed that citizens with pure Japanese blood were immune to AIDS, and if citizens were mixed with Chinese or Korean heritage, then that wasn’t of concern. When the truth came out, public outrage resulted in the eventual prosecution and conviction of high-ranking officials in the Ministry of Health and Welfare, executives of the manufacturing company involved, and a leading doctor in the field of hemophilia. One of the reasons the trial lasted over a decade was because the victims wanted to remain anonymous, including an 11-year-old who eventually came forth as the face of the scandal (and who today serves as a member of the Japanese Parliament). Over 30 years after the incident, and over 20 years after Ryuhei Kawada revealed his face and name, the story is brought to the stage across the ocean in the US .

      "Blood" play at the Complex (Photo - TheGarage).

      “Blood” play at the Complex (Photo – TheGarage).

      How to bring such a political, tragic, outrage-evoking story to the stage with music, artistic visuals, creative staging and great acting, that is the question. And director and writer Robert Ackerman has the answer. Mr. Ackerman, an Obie and New York Outer Critics Circle Award winner as well as two-time Golden Globe and five-time Emmy Award nominee, brings the story, enhanced with all of these artistic trappings, to the stage with beauty, music, rhythm, heart-wrenching performances, and courageous, triumphant, stylized drama, and with total respect for the subject matter while still adding unexpected audio-visual beauty. The play is the debut production of LA’s newest theater company, The Garage, and what an entrance to the scene! The play features original music and songs by “The Virgins” bassist Nick Ackerman and “Jet” drummer/vocalist Chris Cester.

      An extremely entertaining and thought-provoking presentation of a troubling historic incident, an afternoon well spent, highly recommended.

      Blood (Photo - TheGarage).

      Blood (Photo – TheGarage).

      • The cast includes Alexa Hamilton as American reporter Jules Davis and Garage founder Sohee Park as the Japanese-Korean lawyer who heads up the investigation. Takuma Anzai takes on the role of Jules’ former Tokyo college buddy, and Kazumi Aihara plays a hospital nurse who becomes an unwilling witness to unfolding events. Toshi Toda’s Dr. Kazema is based on real-life Dr. Takeshi Abe who served as president of Japan ’s AIDS Research Committee and the Hemophilia Society. Miho Ando portrays Koyo Ninomiya, the young “whistle blower” based on Councilor Kawada, and Saki Miata plays his mother. Also in the ensemble, playing multiple roles, are Ash Ashina, Anthony Gros, Takaaki Hirakawa, Michael Joseph,Andrew Nakajima, Daryl L. Padilla, Mika Santoh and Taishin Takibayashi.
      The Complex
      6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038
      (Street parking within a block or two. Usually there is parking North of Santa Monica on Cahuenga)

      •Performances through April 3 (so don’t delay getting a ticket!):
      Fridays at 8 p.m.: March 11, 18. 25; April 1
      Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 12, 19, 26; April 2
      Sundays at 3 p.m.: March 3, 20, 27; April 3
      • Fri. and Sat. $30, Sun. $25 ($15 Student Discount (Fri & Sat use code 115, and Sun use code code 210)
      Also, discount tickets for some dates at Goldstar.com
      • Buy tickets here.

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