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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, March 10, 2000

A school of sharks are menacing in a scene from
"Punia and the Sharks," one tale from
HTY's "Mixed Plate."

HTY serves up satisfying
‘Mixed plate’

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


WHEN it comes to getting laughs from elementary school-age kids, nothing seems more sure-fire than any reference to buttocks. Honolulu Theatre for Youth artistic director Mark Lutwak and a committee of playwrights known as the HTY Playwrights' Hui use that theatrical trump card often and effectively in HTY's original production of "Mixed Plate Special: Stories That Feed Us" in the Leeward Community College Theatre.

Various characters are kicked, pinched and bitten in the butt in this anthology of adaptations of traditional Asian and Pacific tales. HTY actor BullDog brought down the house twice during a school performance Wednesday when he ordered another character to "Get your butt fixed," later commenting that the reason a shark's stomach smelled so foul was because the shark had eaten someone's butt. The young audience went totally ape over it.


Bullet What: "Mixed Plate Special: Stories That Feed Us," presented by Honolulu Theatre for Youth
Bullet When: 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. March 18
Bullet Where: Leeward Community College Theatre, 96-045 Ala Ike St.
Bullet Cost: $10 adults, $7.50 high school and college students with I.D., and $5 for ages 3-12 and seniors 60 and older
Bullet Call: 839-9885

Fortunately, there is more to this play-by-committee than slapstick and crude humor. Each story comes from a different geographical region. Each conveys a sugar-coated lesson along with the laughter. Each seems more substantial and elaborate than the one before it.

"The Case of the Stolen Smell" is a Japanese tale about a greedy man (BullDog) who accuses a beggar (Nara Springer) of stealing the aroma of his food. The local magistrate (Bruce Hale) sides with the plaintiff but rules that he must beat the beggar's shadow.

"The Tiger's Whisker" finds a young Korean girl (Sheilah Sealey) embarking on the seemingly impossible task of obtaining the live tiger's whisker that will enable an eccentric hermit (BullDog) to concoct a potion to change her brother's behavior. With a sip of it, he will always be nice to her.

Two Chamorro sisters learn several lessons from a pair of fearsome but fair forest spirits in "The Taotaomonas and The Two Sisters." The younger (Springer) is sent in harm's way by the lazy older sister (Sealey), who, after several painful experiences learns the error of her ways.

Actors BullDog and Sheila Sealey act out a
scene from "Punia and the Sharks."

"Punia and the Sharks" tells how a smart young Hawaiian, Punia (BullDog), outwitted the school of sharks guarding a pool full of lobsters and octopi.

It all adds up to another great performance by BullDog who delighted the kids with his portrayals of a clownish Japanese man, an eccentric hermit and pincher-handed forest spirit.

Hale gives BullDog particularly fine support as the shark king, Kai'ale'ale, in the final segment. The kids on Wednesday were involved with the story from the start and also attempted to "warn" BullDog when the shark was sneaking up on him.

It may take a moment to realize that Kai'ale'ale eventually swallows Punia whole. but BullDog and Hale work in perfect synchronization as comic dancers from that point so that a situation that could scare some young children becomes hilarious instead.

HTY veteran Sealey reaffirms her versatility with her appealing performances as a plucky Korean heroine and nasty Chamorro sister. Springer is charming as the Chamorro heroine.

This is the second HTY show this spring to make good use of the LCC Theatre. Meleanna Meyer's (set design) large and versatile creations are nicely detailed and also effectively enhanced by Richard Schaefer (lighting). Schaefer is especially successful in suggesting the ocean in which Kai'ale'ale meets his match. Casey Cameron (costumes) likewise does an effective job with the earlier stories but does her best work with the shark.

There are certainly places that could be seasoned with more imagination but as entertainment for children, "Mixed Plate" hits the spot.

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