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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, August 31, 2000

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Norris (Squire Coldwell), front, eavesdrops as Mahela (Clarie
Malia Antenorcruz) and Clayton (Daryl Bonilla) flirt in the
Kumu Kahua production of "Aloha Friday."


When mainland corporations attack:
'Aloha Friday' sends a
clear picture

By Betty Shimabukuro

EMOTIONS come in three flavors at Menehune Cable -- surly, angry and rude. The day pretty much passes in an up-down cycle of these feelings, with the added layer of smiley Dick, who could best be described as obsequious. OK, he's a suck-up.

Menehune is your basic dysfunctional unit, full of people who are borderline incompetent and over-the-line unpleasant. Yet they manage to provide basic cable service to Kauai. Most of the time.

"We're the only cable company on the island," says program manager Lei, played by Reiko Ho. "Get us or get static."


Bullet What: "Aloha Friday," presented by Kumu Kahua
Bullet Date: Tonight through Oct. 1. Shows at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. No show Sept. 15.
Bullet Place: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.
Bullet Tickets: $15 general ($12 Thursdays), with discounts for students, seniors, unemployed and groups
Bullet Call: 536-4441, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays

When your market standing is that solid, why not be unpleasant, if it makes everybody happy?

Kumu Kahua Theatre's latest production, "Aloha Friday," explores what happens to this motley crew when the cable company is sold to that big boogie man, the mainland conglomerate.

The play was written by Lee Cataluna and won a playwriting prize from Kumu Kahua and the University of Hawai'i at Manoa in 1998. It reflects Cataluna's mastery of made-in-Hawaii humor, previously seen in "Da Mayah" and "Ulua: the Musical," produced during Kumu Kahua's last two seasons.

At Menehune Cable, it costs $24 for basic service, $36 for the premium package, and $47 for "all the naked chi-chi lady kine stuff." Best to stick with the basic package, though, which includes such fine programs as:

Bullet "Shooting Goat with the Two Monizes": "Us guys going be taking you to Hanakapiai, where we will shoot goat, clean gun and smoke meat."

Bullet "Use the Milk Before He Spoil": "Today's cooking lesson: Bugs in your flour is natural."

Bullet "Shoot First, Go Hamura's After" (with the Kauai Police Department): "In our special traffic section, officer Reese Inaba gives a lesson on how to merge."

"Aloha Friday" has a cast of a dozen, but co-director R. Kevin Doyle says the main character is the cable company itself and how it transforms under the corporate takeover.

"A lot of the characters don't get along, but they still kind of view themselves as a family," Doyle says. "They are a dysfunctional family, but in the end they recognize that they are a unit, and they work better together than apart."

Doyle's co-director, who goes by the name Bulldog, says that if Menehune Cable were human, it would be "a person who tries to do good, but ends up messing up ... the bumbler with good intentions."

Cataluna's script blends subtle humor with bold statements, Bulldog says. "I really appreciate how she can make a story very local without relying on racial stereotypes."

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
The staff of Menehune Cable, from left, are Faith (Karen Hironaga),
Hope (Li Atsumi), Mahela (Clarie Malia Antenorcruz, standing),
and Grace (U'i Kapuaakuni).

"Lee has a wonderful way of finding humor in the way we live in Hawaii," says Doyle. "It's not just making fun of people, it's finding the truth of the way people behave."

And not all that behavior is bad. The story includes a budding romance between Mahela (Clarie Malia Antenorcruz), an enthusiastic marketing intern, and Clayton (Daryl Bonilla) -- "Cable installation is my life. It's what I do. It's who I am."

Clayton thrills Mahela's heart with such deep sentiments as, "Your knuckles is actually humongous."

The bad guy in "Aloha Friday" is Buck Buyer (Edward J. Dyer), of Lakeside Communications of Sunnydale -- where "no more goat," the Moniz brothers note with dismay.

Buyer attempts to reshape Menehune Cable along "local" lines, based on his mistaken impressions. He renames the company Aloha Friday, has the receptionists wear muumuus and adds a shopping channel so local residents can call in and buy -- macadamia nuts!

The goat-shooting Monizes are named hosts of the new shopping channel, which sells, among other things, an "all-natural" polyester pareau that's supposed to make your butt look smaller.

"Looks like one dead goat after you bleed 'em and gut 'em and tie 'em to the front bumper of your truck," remarks one Moniz.

It's not that the new owner is evil, he just has a lot to learn, says Bulldog, and the cable crew is not exactly the innocent protagonist. That group could certainly stand to learn a few things. Efficiency. Manners.

Through her script, Cataluna makes a point about big mainland companies that move in on small local ones, Bulldog says. "But she also makes a point about ourselves as local people. It's not like we have all the answers."

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