Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, March 8, 1999

Kumu Kahua by Brad Goda
"My mother's driving me nuts!" Vangie (Liberty Chavez), left,
fantasizes about choking her mom, Aying (Nan Asuncion),
in Kumu Kahua's

a subtle treat


By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


Naoko Maeshiba made her mark in local theatre with "Blue Bird Rhapsody," her 1997 MFA thesis production at the UH Manoa. She applies the same imaginative approach as director of "Flipzoids" at Kumu Kahua. Playwright Ralph B. Pena explored the experiences of Filipino immigrants from an unconventional perspective. Mae-shiba's staging enhances the surreal aspects of the story.

Water drips from the ceiling into a huge bowl. Sand cascades down through a pool of light. Shadows, reflections, sound bites, music tracks, projected images, light and darkness are also employed effectively. A wooden deck and a large sandbox define the primary performance area. A toilet stall occupies a separate space. About all that's missing from the experience are a few appropriate odors!

Nan Asuncion stars as Aying, a recent arrival from Ilocos Norte who enjoys going to the beach and sticking her hands in the ocean because it is the same ocean that washes the shores of her home. Such characters can easily be written as obvious "good guys" in plays of this type, but Pena avoids any hint of cuteness or special pleading, and Asuncion brings Aying to life with exceptional skill.

Liberty Chavez portrays Aying's daughter, Vangie, who is proud to be a nurse and is working diligently to perfect her command of the English language. What Vangie wants most is to fit in as an upwardly mobile resident of southern California.

Eric Dixon Burns is Redford, born in the PI but raised in California. He is so fully acculturated that he speaks a SoCal patois that is part Valley Girl and part psychobabble. Casting a Caucasian in the role is a clever way of suggesting total immersion in mainstream American culture. Burns adds another memorable performance to his short but impressive resume.

The story follows predictable lines in unpredictable ways. Aying regrets leaving the PI and wants to return. Vangie doesn't miss living in a shack and finds some of Aying's old-country ways embarrassing and out of place in California. Redford meets Aying and eventually she tries to share with him the memories and folk tales Vangie no longer wants to hear.

"Flipzoids" comes close to stalling at times, but several of those lulls prove significant. Kurt Würmli (Set and Props), Richard Schaefer (Lights), Alexander C. Torres (Costumes) and Cherie DeHaven (Sound) share credit for the environment that frames the cast's performance so strikingly.



Bullet On stage: : 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, to April 3
Bullet Place: Kumu Kahua Theatre
Bullet Tickets: $5-$15
Bullet Call: 536-4441

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