17 seasonal monologues
chart a kid-friendly course

"Christmas Talk Story 2002" shows at 8 p.m. Fridays and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 21 at Tenney Theatre, St. Andrew's Cathedral. Tickets: $16 ($12 students, $8 children). Call 839-9885.

Review by John Berger

If truth in labeling applied to stage performances, Honolulu Theatre for Youth's "Christmas Talk Story" would be titled "December Talk Story." Few of the 17 monologues have much to say about the religious aspect of Christmas, but almost all address the excitement that surrounds the December-in-Hawaii experience -- including fireworks fun on New Year's Eve.

Director Mark Lutwak and three talented actors -- BullDog, Nara Springer Cardenas and Cynthia See -- star in this co-production with Kumu Kahua, with support from the Family Performance Band. Schoolkids are seeing a one-act version during the week, but some of the funniest moments come after intermission in the full-length weekend show.

Eaton "Bob" Magoon's "Numbah One Day of Christmas" is always a kid-pleaser, and the audience Saturday enthusiastically got into the familiar countdown. The other big hit among the musical numbers is BullDog, Cardenas and See as three very bratty kids in "Santa We've Been Good." The trio mesh perfectly in portraying materialistic brats fighting for Santa's attention and transparently lying about their behavior.

BullDog narrates "Hanuchriskwanzoban," an earnest parable of multiculturalism in which newly arrived kids from Israel, Japan, Hong Kong and New Jersey teach a dumbfounded local boy that not everybody celebrates Christmas.

BullDog, always a hit with kids, also held their attention with "The Christmas Sentence" (a boy must use every letter of the alphabet in writing about the meaning of Christmas) and again as the incorrigible problem child narrator of "Cedric, the Now and Future Pain" -- a kid so spoiled he burns a Christmas present that isn't the right brand and color.

Cardenas takes over for "My Brother's Bike," a beautiful tale of a boy who has been making do with an old, beat-up bike and wins a new one -- but asks if he can have a girl's bike instead so he can give it to his little sister.

See is engaging in "Losers Weepers," although the situation -- a child considers not returning a lost puppy -- has only a tenuous link to the season. Several other stories also veer off on long tangents -- not that most kids are likely to notice.

Director Lutwak, who plays accordion and keyboards, is joined by Daren Au (guitar), John Kearns (bass) and Kumu Kahua artistic director Harry Wong III (drums) in backing the actors. Hawaiian and hapa-haole songs, and a touch of ukulele and hula, add other entertaining facets to the show.

By any name, this "talk story" celebration is a best bet in pidgin theater for local kids.

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