COURTESY LIZARD LOFT
Stu Hirayama, front, is the psychiatrist treating Troy Apostol, left, Kiana Rivera and Chris Doi, all of whom think they're Jesus, in the one-act play, "Evil at the Post Office." CLICK FOR LARGE
'Evil at the Post Office' is a special Lizard Loft delivery
Psychiatric disorders are the common denominator in the pair of one-act plays that make up "Lapses of Identity," presented by the Lizard Loft. Playwright Mark Tjarks explains in the program notes that he wants to show "the differences between a realistic and a delusional identity are much narrower than most would allow." Both stories are inspired by real cases.
The first, "Off Key," stars Victoria Gail-White as a college professor who "hears" faces rather then seeing them, and therefore finds herself unable to recognize anyone when her hearing is suddenly impaired by an earache. Stu Hirayama is the central character in "Evil at the Post Office," a dark but thought-provoking comedy in which a psychiatrist invites his colleagues to watch an orchestrated confrontation between three institutionalized mental patients -- each of whom believes that he or she is Jesus.
"Lapses of Identity," presented by the Lizard Loft, continues at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday at The ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave. Tickets are $15; $10 students. Call 550-8457 or visit www.honoluluboxoffice.com|
"Off Key" is directed by Jan McGrath. Alvin Chan directs "Post Office."
Much of the audience on Saturday was evidently there to support the cast of "Off Key" and left at intermission. They missed the superb work of Chan's cast that came afterward.
"Post Office" opens with a "film" that shows what happened when Dr. Reeves (Hirayama) persisted in speaking to his son as if the boy were his daughter, and to his daughter as if she were his son. The action then goes "live" as Dr. Reeves brings the patients one by one into the observation room that will be their battleground.
Jesus No. 1 is an elderly man named Howard (Troy Apostol) who explains that he, Jesus, also is postmaster general of the United States "because (President) Truman owed God a favor."
Jesus No. 2, Virgil Peterson, aka Plexus (Chris Doi), is much younger and more articulate. Virgil, er, Plexus tells Dr. Reeves that all those who have been chosen for eternal salvation know that "I am Jesus," and that the fact that Dr. Reeves can't see that is proof that "doctors are fallible."
Jesus No. 3 is Jane Doe (Kiana Rivera), a mysterious woman who declines to identify herself as Jesus but tells Dr. Reeves that "it's not wrong" for him to do so.
Reeves intends to force his patients to reject their delusions by seeing themselves mirrored by the others. But if God exists as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, why can't Jesus simultaneously appear as three separate people?
Apostol and Doi are excellent in roles that require subtlety one moment and broad slapstick the next. Rivera becomes a dominant and sometimes ominous presence once she enters the fray, and Hirayama demonstrates his versatility as the psychiatrist.
"OFF KEY" takes much longer to go beyond the basic situation of a woman hospitalized with an earache.
Tjarks takes care to establish that this story takes place here. One of the characters is named Lani, two others chat about the foibles of UH faculty members who come here from the Midwest, and the protagonist tells her husband that white people "can ignore race -- unless you're in Hawaii."
At its best, "Off Key" conveys the bewilderment of suddenly being unable to recognize the people around you. For instance, is that the patient's husband who is trying to kiss her, or a member of the hospital staff?
Another lengthy chunk of dialogue addresses the issue of whether the husband is Caucasian, black or "local."
Director McGrath reinforces the confusion by having Laura Bach Buzzell and Frank South play several characters each, and then having Buzzell and Brittany Lopez play the same character.
Couples who have wrestled with the challenge of accepting each other's quirks and oddities may find "Off Key" interesting as a mirror of their own experiences, but the decision to present it first pays off for everyone. Friends of the "Off Key" cast can see it and leave. Theatergoers with the patience to sit through it are rewarded after intermission.