COURTESY HONOLULU THEATRE FOR YOUTH
Alvin Chan stars as Shy Boy and Reb Beau Allen is Yahoo in "The Stones," a play about two teens who face dire consequences when their contest turns deadly.
Youth and consequences
Two teenagers on a freeway overpass challenge each other: Who can be the first to drop a rock on a car? It takes awhile, but one of them "wins," the car crashes and the driver dies.
Presented by Honolulu Theatre for Youth
» On stage: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday
» Place: Tenney Theatre, St. Andrews Cathedral
» Tickets: $16; $8 seniors and youths under age 19
» Call: 839-9885 or visit htyweb.org
Does that make the 13-year-old "winner" a killer who deserves to be tried and imprisoned as an adult? Or is he too young to know that if you drop rocks on cars going 60 on the freeway, someone could get hurt?
Honolulu Theatre for Youth explores those questions -- and the larger issues of peer pressure and the problematic bravado of young males -- with outstanding success in "The Stones."
Playwrights Tom Lycos and Stefo Nantsou were responding to a fatal incident in Australia, but the scenario is a familiar one in Hawaii and across the mainland, as well.
HTY veterans Alvin Chan and Reb Beau Allen play two characters apiece in this fast-moving and slightly localized version of the story. We meet them first as the teens, Yahoo (Allen) and Shy Boy (Chan), whose misdeeds escalate from breaking-and-entering to setting fire to cats to stealing rocks from a heiau, before they decide to test their aim on the overpass. With slight costume adjustments, the two actors morph into Russo (Allen) and Quinn (Chan), the police detectives assigned to investigate the various incidents.
Allen and Chan succeed in defining their characters as separate entities even in the scenes where Quinn interrogates Shy Boy.
The detectives are handed the freeway killer on a platter. The teen who "won" the contest tells his mother what happened, she turns him in and the kid then rats out his friend.
Suddenly they're facing prison time for manslaughter.
The story ends just before the verdict is announced. HTY artistic director Eric Johnson joins the cast at the front of the stage and becomes the moderator as the audience discusses the issues. Is the teen who dropped the rock guilty even though he didn't intend to kill anyone? What about the "friend" who dared him to do it?
During last Friday's discussion, Johnson mentioned that legislation has been proposed that would make the parents of minors arrested for graffiti offenses financially liable for the damage -- and perhaps criminally liable, as well. Suppose a teenager under 18 accidentally killed somebody -- should their parents be held responsible and go to prison, too?
"The Stones" is somewhat less successful in addressing the issue of long-term consequences. A heavy-handed anti-smoking subplot is intended to show that some choices may seem benign, but have negative consequences that won't be apparent for months or years.
One of the detectives is a longtime smoker who started in middle school. Now, he couldn't quit even if he wanted to.
Judged by both content and presentation, "The Stones" is one of HTY's best productions in recent years. It promotes thought and discussion of important issues without preaching, talking down to the audience or reducing complicated situations to simplified civics lessons. H. Bart McGeehon distinguishes himself as set, lighting and props designer, while Johnson's direction of his talented cast keeps this fast-moving story in focus and on track.