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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, March 16, 2000

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Sara Hatfield and Jonathan Sypert animate one of the dragon puppets.

Creativity soars
in Ernst Lab Theatre’s
‘Flight of Dragons’


By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


"A Flight of Dragons" is one of the University of Hawaii Ernst Lab Theatre's odder productions in recent years, but that's not necessarily bad. A complete lack of self-indulgence sets it apart from other Lab Theatre shows.

Sandra Finney is credited as having "conceived of and produced" it. She shares credit with five other directors in staging an uneven but creative and ambitious production.


Bullet A Flight of Dragons: 8 p.m. today-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Ernst Lab Theatre. Tickets $8; students, seniors, military, UH faculty and staff $6; UHM students with valid ID $3. Call 956-7655.

Lectures on dragon physiology provide the skeleton of the show as Christy Hauptman, Shawn Filipe, Melissa Ha'o and Kyra Poppler consider how a 90-foot reptile could fly, hover in the air and breath fire and smoke. The aerodynamics of the bumblebee, occurrence of hydrogen and hydrochloric acid in nature, design of the Hindenburg, and anatomy of the bombardier beetle, are among the things that lead the four to conclude that the existence of reptiles with those abilities is not impossible.

Other segments use costumes, props, puppets and Monty Python-style animated graphics.

The lectures become intrusive as the segments become more elaborate but Poppler continues to be engaging. Poppler is also appealing in "A Dragon is in My Computer," one of 11 poetic pieces by Jack Prelutsky. Prelutsky covers a range of dragon characters that include a spunky baby dragon (Sadie Yi in "Nasty Little Dragonsong") and a mournful captive (Melissa A. Wyman in "I Am My Master's Dragon").

Debbie Harris is instantly charming as a little girl in "I Am Waiting Waiting Waiting," another Prelutsky piece.

Elaborate costumes make "A Lethal Perspective" the visual climax in Act I as malevolent dragons gather in competition to rate their accomplishments in avenging themselves on mankind.

Each dragon is from a different part of the world and Finney does a beautiful job on ethnic costumes for each.

Three segments retell "St. George & the Dragon" in the style of "Fractured Fairy Tales" and Stan Freberg's "Dragnet" parody. In "The True Story of the Death By Violence of George's Dragon," the dragon is the town hero but George gets sainthood anyway.

"One Last Dragon" is a story of capitalism at work as a princess (Harris) and a dragon's mother (Lisa Niemczura) decide it would be more profitable to have their sons (Mark Mazaki and Dezmond Gilla) fight fake battles for paying audiences. All four performers are excellent.

A dragon (Jonathan "J. C." Sypert) and a knight named George (Grant Okubo) agree to help each other achieve their respective dreams in "The George Business." Puppeteers Cyndi Char-Nicholson, Sara M. Hatfield and Sommer Ouchi share credit with Okubo, Sypert, and Jennica Nishida in making this tale the glorious visual climax of the show. The group skillfully animates an impressive dragon puppet and an armored knight-on-horseback. several other characters are represented to great comic effect by far more simple creations.

Nishida displays versatility in several roles. She is equally effective in "The George Business," playing a perfect pet in "I Wish I Had A Dragon," narrating "My Dragon's Been Disconsolate," and as a prim school teacher in "Storytime."

Sypert and Okubo and hilarious as the kids in "Storytime" and a fine team in "The George Business."

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