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Manoa Theatre captures satirical 'Duck Hunter'


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POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2009

The world of supermarket tabloids is a marvelous place where Elvis and Bigfoot shop at night at 7-Eleven, space aliens regularly make themselves known and mankind shares the planet with various “;half-human, half-something else”; creatures whose existence defies the laws of Mendelian genetics. Welcome to the world of “;Duck Hunter Shoots Angel,”; Manoa Valley Theatre's Hawaii premiere production of Mitch Albom's tart and satirical yet surprisingly substantial send-up of “;tabs”; and those who write for them.

               

     

 

'Duck Hunter Shoots Angel'

        » Where: Manoa Valley Theatre
       

» When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays through May 31

       

» Cost: $30 general, $25 for seniors and military, $15 for 25 and younger

       

» Call: 988-6131 or www.manoavalleytheatre.com

       

 

       

Albom combines predictable stereotypes—the semiliterate malapropism-spouting Southerner first and foremost—with a subtle but effective message about tolerance, not judging people by geographic origin.

Jim Tharp (Duane) and Braddoc DeCaires (Duwell) star as bumbling brothers, allegedly the most inept duck hunters in Dixie, who nonetheless succeeded in shooting something they saw flying over the swamp. They believe it was an angel.

Word of the shooting reaches Lester, the shameless owner/publisher of the “;Weekly World & Globe”; in New York. Lester and his half-alligator factotum dispatch Sandy, a cynical, burned-out reporter who is both “;anti-gun and anti-redneck,”; to rural Alabama with orders to buy exclusive rights to the hunters' story and fabricate the physical evidence needed to substantiate it if necessary.

(Sandy's back story: He left Alabama years before in search of wealth and fame in “;legitimate”; journalism. In doing so, he left an innocent woman behind. She had something she wanted to tell him. He was too busy to listen.)

Sandy goes south with Lenny, the paper's 300-pound photographer. They find Duane and Duwell in the swamp and gradually earn their trust. Then, inexplicable things start happening.

Tharp, a longtime star of the local stage, sacrificed his white hair and full white beard to play Duane; Greg Howell, MVT's hair and makeup master, took at least 20 years off Tharp's actual age. With a radical new look and a new spring in his step, Tharp sets aside his usual stage persona of the genial old codger and delivers a well-calibrated comic performance as a much younger man.

DeCaires makes a welcome return to the stage as Duwell. He is well cast opposite Tharp, and they swap one-liners with the precise timing of a veteran comic duo.

Gregory Scott Harris (Lenny), another actor who has been away from the stage too long, is a third key to the show's success. A “;fat suit”; gives Harris bulk for his role but doesn't slow the flow of his performance.

Karen Archibald's set places the swamp behind a scrim that allows it to disappear when cast members—Harris, Scott Francis Russell (Sandy), Chantelle J.M. Sawa (Woman) and Vincent Fitzgerald (Gator Man)—move to other locales. Katherine Clifton (Kansas) tends the counter at a convenience store on one end of the stage. Thomas L. McCurdy (Lester) directs the hunt for the angel-shooters from an office high on the other end.

Archibald's swamp, Janine Myers' angelic lighting effects and sound designer Jason Taglianetti's thunderstorms enhance the actors' work. Mark Archibald's video designs are particularly effective in creating the experience of driving down a rural Southern road at night. Video adds a sense of motion to what could otherwise be a long and static scene.