Preview: South Pacific at Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra

Showtimes: Thu 7pm, Fri 2pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 2pm, plus Wed 4/25 & 5/2 7pm. Some performances sold out. Through 5/5; $25-$30; Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra (CATS) at Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street in Nevada City;

This is the 25th production Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra—this region’s only Asian American theater group. It has grown into a remarkable venture, doing plays that no one else stages in these parts, involving mythology, immigration and wartime internment.

So why the vintage musical South Pacific (staged often by the Music Circus), and why now? Well, this World War II classic puts the shoe on the other foot—it’s the white characters from distant lands who are coming to grips with unfamiliar cultural traditions. And in this Asian American production, the show’s commentary on old-school American attitudes regarding race and intermarriage resonates more deeply than usual. I can’t think of a production in which the song about fear-and-loathing of non-whites (“You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught”) connects as powerfully as it does here and now, in an age when some Americans call for self-deportation and building walls. (The ’40s dialogue between men and women, on the other hand, feels pretty dated.)

The Rodgers and Hammerstein score (from 1949, it will mark its 70th anniversary next year) remains radiant. And this elaborate production (a huge undertaking for a small organization like CATS) wins your heart, despite occasional little glitches.