Monday, December 23, 2002

‘LUMA’ brightens spirits
of audiences of all ages

Review by John Berger

Who hasn't played with light in the dark -- sparklers, flashlights, glow-sticks or the ever-popular laser-pointer? There's something inherently entertaining about light in the dark even for adults. How else to explain the popularity of elaborate aerial fireworks on New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July?

Start with the basics, add fluorescent "black light" effects, an eclectic musical score and lots and lots of juggling illuminated objected in the dark, and you have "LUMA: Theatre of Light," a hit with the kids lucky enough to see one of the four performances at Hawaii Theatre over the weekend.

The adults in the house for the Saturday night show seemed to leave in brighter spirits as well.

Flashlights, self-illuminated objects, puppets, a metal grinder's wheel, colored stage lights, illuminated beach balls and various other items were used to create a variety of "light in the dark" effects. Some were abstract -- a "live" representation of a giant oscilloscope was especially dramatic. Other effects were used to tell short stories or suggest comic situations. A stick figure defined by luminescent green lines appeared in several vignettes and became a recurring character.

An "underwater" segment featured colorful Day-Glo puppets -- a giant clam, hammerhead shark, starfish and a mother octopus defending her baby from a foolishly aggressive fish. A similar number introduced an "invisible" man wearing a fluorescent "zoot"-style hat and jacket.

One of the most interesting segments in terms of execution showed geometric figures forming and changing shape while appearing to float in the air. The illusion of an isosceles pyramid tumbling through space was the best of all (kids might not notice or care, but the effect of some of the other abstract illusions was reduced for this reviewer by the visibility of the hands or bodies of the performers as they manipulated the various components).

Other segments involved visual images created by juggling illuminated objects -- balls, large rings or bowling pins. One colorful variation on that basic theme was a routine that involved bouncing the balls off a V-shaped surface as part of the juggling circuit. In another variation, the juggler kept the balls in motion inside a large transparent bowl.

It wasn't all juggling and "black light" by any means. There was also a segment in which multicolored images were projected down from the lighting grid onto swirling cloth banners. It didn't seem like much at first but became more impressive as it progressed.

The performers broke the "fourth wall" several times when lighted objects seemed to be flying over the crowd. Folks down front got an opportunity to participate hands-on when illuminated beach balls were thrown into the audience. There was also a scramble later on when glowing green tubes were thrown out as souvenirs.

Marlin, the single-name creator of "LUMA," added something else entirely different as the show's one-man opening act before the lights went down, and distinguished himself with a tight comic-juggling routine that displayed impressive skills in both specialties. He also introduced Slingerzz and demonstrated how kids of all ages can amaze their friends -- and irk other people -- with the snappy bright-green toy (Slingerzz sold by the handful during intermission and will probably turn up as "stocking stuffers" around Oahu on Christmas Day).

Hawaii has certainly seen some of these ideas in other venues -- the glow-under-black-light-fish concept was used in the old "Yes! Hawaii" show in Waikiki, and "swimming" fish puppets are part of the Don Tiki show.

That said, "LUMA" had the kids' attention from start to finish, and even many of the adults in the crowd oohed and aahed at some of the more elaborate geometric lighting effects.

With only the limited four-show run this time, Marlin and "LUMA" should be a hot ticket whenever a "hana hou" engagement is scheduled.

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