Pidg, Kitty break
language barriersWhat: "Pidg Latin" presented by Kumu Kahua and Honolulu Theatre for Youth
Place: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.
Dates and Cost: 8 p.m. today-Saturday, Feb. 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 2 p.m. Feb. 4, 11 and 18. $12-$15 adults, $5-$10 for high school and college students with valid I.D., and $5 seniors 60 and older
By John BergerINEXPENSIVE costumes, a hilarious hodgepodge of odd wigs and engaging characterizations by a talented and versatile cast directed by Harry Wong III, are the key components as Honolulu Theatre for Youth and Kumu Kahua present two one-act plays by Yokanaan Kearns, "Pidg Latin" and "How Kitty Got Her Pidgin Back."
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Both are entertaining as they explore issues of language and cultural identity in contemporary Hawaii. Kearns offers insights into the benefits of being able to communicate in more than one language or dialect, and "Kitty" also warns Pidgin speakers that they shouldn't abuse those who can't understand them.
The versatile and always entertaining BullDog steals scene after scene in both plays, playing bizarre characters that include a stereotypical Filipino priest, a loudmouth auntie and an idiosyncratic University of Hawaii at Manoa Latin professor. In one scene he successfully plays two characters at once while changing costumes from one into the other.
Edward J. Dyer plays several other odd characters. One of them is a "bilingual" UH-Manoa linguistics professor who is originally from the mainland but is now fluent in Pidgin. Another is an odd Pidgin-speaking kid nicknamed Sizzler who teaches Kitty (Sheilah Sealey) an important lesson about not picking on immigrants just because they "dress funny" and don't speak Pidgin.
Sealey gives a great performance as a hapless high school student, Kitty Rodrigues, who loses the ability to speak Pidgin in a surfing accident and discovers to her horror that she can only speak Standard English. To make matters worse, she has a prom date with hulking football star Waikoloa Yanagisawa (BullDog) and fears that he'll break the date if he hears her "talk li' wun haole."
Kitty finds the solution to her problem when Sizzler hooks her up with geeky Korean immigrant Joon-Young Kang (Louie Hung). Kitty learns that the kid she's been teasing since t'ird grade on account of his clothes and funny accent is actually a nice guy and that he knows how to speak Pidgin as well as English and Korean!
Hung completes the excellent cast with convincing work as the conflicted Kang in "Kitty" and as easy-going, language-impaired UH student Ka'imi Dilingham in "Pidg Latin."
Ka'imi, a Kamehameha Schools grad, is a loser at learning languages who gets into the UH and signs up for Latin in the mistaken assumption that it will be easier than German, Greek or Chinese because "not too long the words." Wrong!
While trying to avoid flunking out -- and also score wit' seductive Faye Fagaragan (Sealey), a "local girl" who was raised in Arizona and speaks Standard English -- Ka'imi discovers that he can translate Latin into Pidgin and Pidgin into "haole style" English. He also discovers the beauty of language and the benefits of being able to communicate in more than one idiom. The backstory about Ka'imi failing language class after language class at Kamehameha but graduating and getting into UH seems improbable but his experiences at UH ring true.
JanDee Abraham (costume design) sets up many of the best comic moments with the imaginative use of wigs. Jason Taglianetti (sound design) uses Marvin Gaye's 1973 hit, "Let's Get it On," in conjunction with Richard Schaefer's lighting schemes, to define Ka'imi's imaginary affair with Fagaragan.
A two-sided chalkboard on wheels is the focal point of Dodzilla's "Pidg Latin" set. The board is used to identify locales, signal scene changes, give cast members a place to hide while not performing, and is a medium for sharing information about language with the "class." Watch for graffiti as the cast sometimes writes things about people in the audience.
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