Picks and Pans Review: Far East
The time is 1954, and an American serviceman stationed in Japan pursues an affair with a Japanese woman, despite the opposition of his commanding officer and his family back home. Far East (third in PBS's Stage on Screen series) may sound like the 1957 movie Sayonara, but this adaptation of A.R. Gurney's late-'90s play is less romantic, less tragic and more thought-provoking.
Navy Lt. "Sparky" Watts (Michael Hayden), heir to a Milwaukee beer fortune, doesn't seem sure whether he wants to challenge Capt. Jim Anderson (Bill Smitrovich) or join him in manly camaraderie. Sparky resents the way the captain's wife, Julia (Lisa Emery), meddles in his private life, but he's sort of attracted to her all the same. When Julia asks whether he loves his girlfriend (Miou), Sparky says, "I think I do. I hope I do." Maybe what he really loves is the idea of taking risks and expanding his horizons.
The actors all fare well, including Connor Trinneer as Sparky's secretly homosexual friend, Ens. Bob Munger. But Gurney's subplot involving Bob and Vietnam-related espionage remains unconvincing.
Bottom Line: Interesting study of Yanks abroad