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'Quiptease' bares pidgin pearl


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POSTED: Sunday, November 15, 2009

Slow to start. Unpredictable. Sure hit.

Yokanaan Kearns' new comedy, “;Quiptease,”; in the first week of its world premiere run at Hawaii Pacific University, is all of the above. However, as directed by HPU Director of Theatre Joyce Maltby, and with stage veteran Larry Bialock in a pivotal role, the production's strengths prevail. Kearns' proven talent as a pidgin playwright should suffice to lure fans of the genre to HPU's windward campus. They'll find the trip well worth the effort, although some might not be convinced until after intermission.

The premise is deceptively simple: Gwendolyn has her college degree and a teaching job, and anticipates a comfortable, predictable life. But for the moment she's back home supervising her father, Harry, a retired naval officer who is slipping into dementia.

Her mother, perennially enthusiastic about the next big thing in personal enlightenment, has deserted the family again, this time running off to Hawaii.

               

     

 

'QUIPTEASE'

        Where: Hawaii Pacific University, 45-045 Kamehameha Highway
       

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 6 (no show Nov. 26); also 7:30 p.m. Nov. 25

       

Cost: $20 general; $15 for seniors, military, students and HPU faculty; $5 for HPU students (with valid ID)

       

Call: 375-1282

       

 

       

Gwendolyn and her gay male friend, Nikita, are boxing the detritus of her mother's previous short-lived interests. He wants help with an upcoming test. She hates poetry. Suddenly, Gwendolyn comes across a postcard.

Mom is coming home!

Today!

Mom arrives, accompanied by a Hawaiian fisherman named Lohi'au and his adult son, an aspiring actor named Jake. She introduces Lohi'au as her new boyfriend and says he is moving in. At that point the action starts and the comedy kicks in.

To say more would spoil the many surprises that follow—some plausible, others strictly there for comic impact.

Bialock dominates much of the action in what turns out to be a dual role; a second personality emerges when Harry confronts his prodigal wife. Bialock has an impressive list of stage credits in a variety of roles at almost all of Hawaii's major community theater groups. His performance here lives up to expectations.

Kearns' knowledge of Latin and classical Greek isn't sufficient to make the opening scene more than prologue—at least for anyone who's seen HPU's publicity for the show—but Danielle Zalopany makes Gwendolyn an interesting character worthy of our sympathy. Zalopany builds on that first impression and maintains it. She has a memorable dramatic moment after intermission.

Ron Encarnacion (Lohi'au) has not been seen onstage often enough since his stomach-turning performance as the creepy rapist in Kumu Kahua's production of “;Age, Sex, Location”; four years ago. His comic skills and command of stage pidgin shine here as he plays a guy who isn't as dumb as he first appears.

Denise-Aiko Chinen adds a second strong pidgin-speaking character to the action in Act 2. She and Encarnacion are a fine team.

Kearns shows his versatility as a writer when Gwendolyn and Jake become entangled in a prickly conversation. It's a great example of how two people who have good reason not to like each other can try to be polite and still end up saying the wrong thing; Derek Elder (Jake) and Zalopany play it beautifully.

Duncan Dalzell (Nikita) helps Zalopany carry the load through the opening scene and provides fine support after the spotlight shifts to other performers. Stacy Ray is appropriately off-putting as the here-today, gone-tomorrow wife.