Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, July 6, 2001

Mathias Maas, R. Kevin Doyle and Dan Kois as themselves
in the opening dance segment of "The Complete History
of America (abridged)" at Manoa Valley Theatre.

Timely history in brief

3 irreverent comics put a
frenzied twist on America's past

By Gary C. W. Chun

In its season finale, Manoa Valley Theatre will tackle the entire history of this proud country. But only the funny parts. What do you expect when they've only got an hour and a half?

"The Complete History of America (abridged)," originally brought to life by that trio of players of international disrepute, the Reduced Shakespeare Company, will now be brought to staggering life within the humble confines of MVT under the guest direction of Mark Lutwak, known for his juvenile work as artistic director of our very own Honolulu Theatre for Youth.

This reporter was fortunate, indeed honored, to have witnessed a recent rehearsal of this patriotic play. Lutwak has assembled only the finest of comedic talent these Hawaiian Islands could produce -- R. Kevin Doyle and Mathias Maas -- plus one gentleman who is actually visiting from the mainland, New York City to be specific, a literary agent by trade, who goes by the name of Dan Kois. (Kois is just as imposing in that humiliating I'm-so-much-better-than-you-because-I'm-from-New-York kind of way.)

"The timing to do this play couldn't have been better for me," said Lutwak. "I live in Manoa, so I'm within walking distance to the theater, and it's a great excuse for me to work with two of the guys (Doyle and Kois) from the local improv group Loose Screws.

"It's not the kind of play I normally do, but working with these guys, it's a unique and fun event," he said.

This will be a play done at a near-frenzied pace, with the actors wearing layers of costumes that can be doffed quickly, and using a dizzying variety of props that will further illustrate our illustrious historical illusions. (Ladies! Consider going into stage acting to get rid of those unwanted calories. It's a foolproof diet plan!)

But I digress. While this historical presentation will appeal to all broad-thinking Americans (and even those of the masculine persuasion), impressionable and particularly dense children should be kept away.

"HTY even did a production of the Reduced Shakespeare Company many years ago, although I think it's funnier for adults," Lutwak said.

"With children's theater there's not much room for irony," he said. "This show's tongue is totally stuck in the cheek."

Regardless of what orifice or part of the body this play's fleshy protuberance may rest in, its authors insist that, since its first production back in 1993, liberal references of current events, both local and national, be adroitly (or even in a hackneyed and obvious manner) sprinkled throughout this abridged complete history.

"The authors even say right out in their introduction to please change stuff to keep it topical," Lutwak said, "or else it'll feel like you're watching old episodes of 'Saturday Night Live.'"

Playing off the truism that "in remembering your mistakes, you are bound to repeat them," this play proves that we, as a citizenry, are uninformed about our little gaffes from the past because, in that way, our future will be that much brighter due to our collective ignorance.

So, in order to make it more understandable and appropriately lowbrow, there will be much tomfoolery, vaudeville, burlesque (NO NUDITY! -- but things may get a little "blue" at times), conspiracy theories, interpretive dance and many television references to appeal to the lowest common denominator in all of us.

But all at a very respectful, irreverent, politically correct and occasionally flatulent level. "It'll be a challenge to keep bringing new stuff into this show," Lutwak said. "There are, like, 65 different ways to play this show; some audiences will like the slapstick more, others the puns or the contemporary references."

And you will laugh to the point that you may even soil yourself. It's the highest compliment that can be given to this all-American show. Be proud!

'The Complete History
of America (abridged)'

Where: Manoa Valley Theatre
When: Starting Wednesday, continuing through July 29. Performances 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays
Admission: $22 (discounts available for seniors, students, military and patrons under 25)
Call: 988-6131

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