Lee Cataluna's "Aloha Friday" depicts a Kauai cable company's struggles to maintain its emphasis on Hawaiian concerns even as it endures subjugation by a large mainland corporation. As such, this would seem to be a natural subject for a Honolulu Advertiser columnist (which Cataluna is), and more often than not she delivers on the promise of her material, though just barely.
By Scott Vogel
The comedy begins during those last few tranquil days before the siege of the Menehune Cable Company, when times were simple and customer service reps spent their shifts playing cards, taking interminable lunch breaks and stealing company toilet paper for home use. They include Faith (Karen Kuioka Hironaga), who pilfers food to satisfy the appetite of her 6-foot-5, 275-pound third-grader; Hope (Meredith Desha), the chief toilet-paper poacher; and Grace (Des), who somehow accomplishes the Promethean feat of scowling for a solid two hours.
The first ripple of things to come arrives courtesy an attractive Miss Perfect by the name of Mahela (Clarie Malia Antenorcruz), who is hired as the station's new intern. (Note to playwright: The boss' constant forgetting of Mahela's name -- calling her Makakilo, Marinara, Mahoola, etc. -- is a tired joke that ought to be retired once and for all.) The young woman's prim ways make her an instant object of derision by the aforementioned sisters of perpetual martyrdom.
Soon, the elderly station owner (Ron Encarnacion, who for some reason wears a wig remarkably reminiscent of Elvis during the final days) is announcing the company's sale to a cable conglomerate based in Sunnydale, somewhere in the lower 48. As is their wont, the employees profess shock but do nothing; until, that is, they learn of the new owners' plans, which include beefing up the station's Hawaiian veneer even as they gut its soul. While they don't, say, refashion the station's logo to include a hibiscus, they do require that all female employees wear muumuu each day. Other plans include planting tiki torches in the station parking lot and painting a whale mural on the building's facade.
Whatever their reasons, the Menehunes' populist battle is a cause we might all champion. For one thing, there are the station's public access programs, every one of which would be a pleasant alternative to some of Oceanic's clunkers. I'm talking of course about Auntie Evangeline Pavao's hit show "Use Up Da Milk Before He Spoil" in which the Auntie (Pemarina) offers helpful hints on constructing whole meals out of rotten ingredients, each show centering on a theme of sorts (e.g., "Bugs in Flour is Natural").
It would also be a shame for Kauai to lose "Shooting Goat with the Two Monizes," starring two brothers (Rick Comilang and Keith Kashiwada -- the latter is terrific) who scour the green mountains in search of cute animals to kill. At such moments, Cataluna's parodic talent is richly in evidence and the shows' excerpts, broadcast on television screens set up throughout the Kumu Kahua auditorium, are hilariously absurd.
There are other funny bits, many of them involving a blunt-talking cable installer named Clayton (the priceless Daryl Bonilla) whose father wanted him to go into refrigeration "but I had to follow my dreams." Bonilla in particular truly understands Cataluna's brand of comedy and the marriage is intermittently side-splitting.
Written as an evening of sketches, perhaps, "Aloha Friday" might well be a treat from start to finish. Cataluna has decided, however, to graft the proceedings onto a conventional comic plot, a choice that doesn't always present characters like Clayton to their best advantage. Also, the directing (by BullDog) tends to be loose and lackadaisical.
But "Aloha Friday" clearly has its heart in the right place. Its message -- that the only defense against mainland domination is a vigorous offense -- is indisputable, and one with which most kama'aina would heartily concur.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays to Aug. 12
Where: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.
Cost: $5 to $15
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