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'Mayah' a timely rerun


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POSTED: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

“;If it ain't broke, don't 'fix' it!”;

Lee Cataluna's original 1998 version of “;Da Mayah”; was a perfect debut for her as a playwright and also for Sherry “;Sista Sherry”; Clifton in the role of “;queen-sized princess”; Sandralene Ferreira. The great tragedy of the 1998-99 theater season was that Kumu Kahua chose not to participate in the Hawaii State Theatre Council's Po'okela Awards program and thereby denied them the awards they deserved for their work.

Jump forward to the present, and Kumu Kahua is presenting a summer rerun production of Cataluna's rewrite of “;Da Mayah”; that was staged last fall. The rerun production is an improvement over last fall because Clifton was able to get time off from her day job at KRTR 96 to revive the role she originated in 1998.

Clifton's leading man, Eddy Gudoy, is perfect once again in the title role as corrupt but clueless Lester “;Do What He Sez!”; Perez. Stu Hirayama (Big Al), another veteran of both the 1998 and 2008 versions, is again an effective comic asset as a guy who learns that being a public employee means easy money and generous benefits without having to put in a full day's work.

The comedy works on two levels. First, as a satire of incompetent elected officials whose loyal staffers slave to make them look good while simultaneously cleaning up after them. Second, as Cataluna's political take on the work ethic of public employees—HGEA and UPW members aren't likely to find this amusing!

MAYOR PEREZ cuts funding for safety net programs so he can create more patronage jobs for his supporters and/or people he is trying to buy off. Big Al and his supervisor, Jazzmin, laze around at taxpayers' expense and use county vehicles to go camping and run personal errands.

               

     

 

'DA MAYAH'

        » Where: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.
       

» When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; also 2 p.m. Sunday

       

» Cost: $16 general admission (discounts available)

       

» Info: 536-4441 or www.kumukahua.org

       

Karen Kuioka Hironaga (Jazzmin), a hit last fall, is excellent once again. The entertainment starts well before show time as Hironaga works the crowd in character. Her talent at improvising off the audience makes the “;pre-show”; worth arriving early for.

Troy M. Apostol returns from the 2008 production to reprise the role of bumbling hit man Stanton the Manton. Always a versatile character actor, Apostol smoothly blends slapstick and farce with an effective portrayal of a clumsy but sincere romantic.

Shawn Anthony Thomsen completes the cast as Sandralene's cousin Dukie, the local “;syndicate”; boss. Thomsen is the third person to play Dukie; he brings the right look and the right stage presence to the role.

On the downside, this version of the show relies excessively on Frank De Lima-style song parodies of hit oldies—“;Honolulu City Lights”; becomes “;Hilo County Traffic Lights,”; for example. With one or two exceptions, they stretch the running time of the show while slowing the action.

Cataluna can write such great, timeless material that her decision to update the jokes is questionable. It isn't necessary to know what a pastele is to figure out that you wouldn't want to eat a “;bad”; one, and Hawaii audiences are likewise smart enough to have figured out '90s era references to Bill Clinton and “;all 10 Sua brothers”; if she's left those bits in the script. (Expect one-liners about June Jones and the Superferry to be gone the next time Kumu Kahua revives the show.)

On a different level, a joke about being “;tall enough to see Mufi Hannemann's bald spot”; comes across as a low blow to a sensitive area in many a male ego.