BRAD GOTA / DIAMOND HEAD THEATRE
From left, Melanie Garcia is Lotty Wilton, Jo Pruden stars as Mrs. Graves, Laura Bach Buzzell plays Rose Arnott, and Genny Wilson is Caroline Bramble in Diamond Head Theatre's production of the romantic comedy "Enchanted April."
A comedy that's quietly understated
Randl Ask strives for an easy intimacy in his directorial debut
WHEN Diamond Head Theatre artistic director John Rampage asked stage veteran Randl Ask what production he would like for his debut as a director for the company, Ask chose "Enchanted April."
The 1922 Elizabeth von Arnim novel is best known as a 1992 film directed by Mike Newell and starring Josie Lawrence, Miranda Richardson and Alfred Molina. It was adapted for the Broadway stage in 2003 by Matthew Barber.
Presented by Diamond Head Theatre
» Place: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
» Time: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through Feb. 19. Matinees at 3 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays.
» Tickets: $12 to $42
» Call: 733-0274; or visit diamondheadtheatre.com
According to Ask, his interpretation for DHT promises to have a more intimate quality.
"While it worked in the film motif, with its larger palette and ability to change locations, both the film and the play are true to the novel ... and its actual message is honored," he said. "Most people don't know that this is romantic comedy of the highest order, with the dramatic backdrop of post-World War I life. It ultimately conveys hope, not to hold back, and celebrate life no matter the age, and to be open to the possibility of growth continuous."
Two married British women try to enliven their humdrum lives by renting a Tuscan villa in springtime, to spend a month without their spouses. Two other women are invited to share the cost, one an aging widow and the other an elegant if jaded young beauty. Will the exotic locale transform these women?
Ask said he is fortunate to have a cast of seasoned actors. As an instructor of the naturalistic acting style made famous by Sanford Meisner, Ask brought these techniques to his cast and found them "extremely coachable."
"Meisner was disenchanted by pure Method acting, and strongly believed that actors were not guinea pigs, having to draw out childhood traumas to make them better. He made it so that the actor's performance was to be simple and fully believed, to live truthfully under the imaginary circumstances of the play. ..."
And the focus stays on the cast, with Ask helping with the play's overall set, costume, lighting and sound design.
"It'll look like it's underplayed. The choice is quiet rather than 'look at me.' It's more of a contemporary approach to a traditional medium. The comedy in the play comes from when the actors are really doing the words, and read the words as very natural, which heightens the comedy. It's not a Neil Simon approach, not beating you over the head like vaudeville. The laughs come because it's so true."
Ask is having his cast -- led by local stage vet Jo Pruden, whom Ask pre-cast in the role of Mrs. Graves -- use microphones, so that, "during the subtle moments, they don't have to sound like they're yelling to those in the back row."
Ask also moved the time period of the play to the late 1920s, the flapper era, creating a more visible difference in style of dress between the older and younger women.
With a Broadway background, Ask himself has been a starring player at DHT over the last three years. Although "Enchanted April" is his directorial debut, he said that, "after having the privilege of working under Tony Award-winning directors, and plays, it's not like I'm coming from a place that I don't know. After 25 years in the biz, I know what I'm doing."
THE ACTORS' GROUP
Savada Gilmore and Deborah Young take the stage for "Joe Turner's Come and Gone."
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"Joe Turner's Come and Gone"
The Actors' Group stages another play by the late August Wilson, an installment of his 10-part historical cycle that chronicles the African-American experience in the 20th century. This time it's 1911 in Pittsburgh, Pa., during the migration of Southern folk to the industrial North in search of jobs. Herald Loomis travels up North with his young daughter in tow to search for his missing wife. When he gets there, he experiences the unexpected recovery of both his ancestral and regional roots. Directed by Russell Motter. » Place: Yellow Brick Studio, 625 Keawe St. » Time: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 12 » Tickets: $12 to $15 » Call: 550-8457 or online at honoluluboxoffice.com
"Mulan: The Woman Warrior" Not to be confused with the Disney feature, Honolulu Theatre for Youth's production is a new play by Alvaro Saar Rios that follows the Chinese legend of the young woman who disguises herself as a man in order to fight for her country. Emily Tam in the title role, plus Hermen Tesoro Jr. and Chi Ho Law, star. » Place: Tenney Theatre, St. Andrew's Cathedral, Queen Emma Square » Time: 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Saturdays, through Feb. 11 » Tickets: $16 adults and $8 children » Call: 839-9885
"Ulua: The Musical" Kumu Kahua Theatre revives Lee Cataluna's popular 1999 play about Oahu guy Kayden Asiu exploring his life's options of Maui. His colleagues introduce him to the joys of fishing for ulua at night. » Place: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St. » Time: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 12 » Tickets: $5 to $16 » Call: 536-4222 or online at kumukahua.org
"Songs for a New World" Hawaii School for Girls at La Pietra's production this year is a musical by Jason Robert Brown. With a male cast from Mid-Pacific Institute and Kaiser and Kaimuki High Schools, this 1996 off-Broadway play is based on the observations of a lonely college dropout living in Greenwich Village. » Place: Gymnasium, Hawaii School for Girls at La Pietra, 2933 Poni Moi Road » Time: 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday » Admission: $5 » Call: 922-2744
Diamond Head Theatre's production of an unfinished Charles Dickens mystery. Prepare an up-tempo song or ballad from the Broadway repertoire that shows off your range; no pop or rock songs. An accompanist will be provided. No a cappella, tapes or karaoke. There may be a dance audition so bring appropriate clothes. Perusal scripts are available at the theater's box office, but must be read on-site. "Drood" will be directed and choreographed by Greg Zane, with musical direction by Judy Yoshioka. The production will run Mar. 24 to Apr. 9. » Place: Diamond Head Theatre Rehearsal Hall, 520 Makapuu Ave. » Time: 7 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday » Call: 732-0277, ext. 309 or online at diamondheadtheatre.com