Curt Lam (Daryl Bonilla) doesn't think he can "make it home for go lua" in "Folks You Meet in Longs."

Excellent cast, design
make ‘Longs’
a part of the best

A talented ensemble cast is the key to Kumu Kahua's season-opening production, "Folks You Meet in Longs." A set designed to give everyone in the audience an unimpeded view is another important asset. Blocked sight lines have been a perennial problem at Kumu Kahua, but designer Daniel M. Gelbman's perfect recreation of your favorite local drug store occupies the Ewa end of the theater, and the seats that run parallel ensure a great view for one and all.

Continues at 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays (except Sept. 12), and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 28 at Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.

Tickets are $16 ($13 on Thursdays), with discounts for seniors, students and groups. Call: 536-4441.

Note: Contains adult vocabulary, adult situations and subject matter.

Veteran director Keith K. Kashiwada keeps the action far enough toward the back of the performance area that the heads of the people in the front row don't block the view of those behind them. Good sight lines are crucial because two of the cleverest bits in playwright Lee Cataluna's latest look at local life are strictly visual.

This is Cataluna's best work since her debut, "Da Mayah," taking off on what we've suspected all along -- that Longs is Hawaii's true gathering place. Dawn Gohara provides continuity as the narrator, a veteran cashier, who says that after 20 years she's seen it all "four times over." The other eight cast members divide 32 monologues among them.

Wil T.K. Kahele is the key player in a sketch about an irksome customer who inconveniences a long line behind him by insisting that the cashier call another Longs to find out the exact time an item will go on sale at the other store later that week! Could the guy really be oblivious to the inconvenience he's causing? Kahele doesn't say a word -- another actor is telling the story -- but his expression suggests the jerk is loving every minute of it.

Silent comedy also embellishes a sketch in which a Longs clerk gives two co-workers a detailed account of her sex life. The conversation is for women only, and the hostile glances directed at male co-workers add essential comic details. Kashiwada has an eye for such nonverbal details, and he makes sure there is plenty of interesting detail work going on during each monologue.

Some characters are more interesting than others, but none is around for very long and none make a second appearance. For the most part, the laughs are at the characters' expense, or generated by references to local places, crude sexual slang or basic toilet humor. One sketch is about a woman who got her ring caught in her pantyhose while using the toilet and was found unconscious on the bathroom floor with her pantyhose around her ankles. An even longer sketch is devoted to a diarrhea victim's desperate efforts to find a restroom.

THE PRODUCTION offers many memorable solo performances. Denise Colon stands out as a pathetic woman who realizes that her life revolves around "Zippy's, Foodland and Longs," and again as a malevolent tita who explains why she beats up girls who "don't know how to walk."

Daryl Bonilla displays his command of pidgin nuances in the role of a hapless local guy who gets busted by his girlfriend for making a noise while looking at another woman. The sound wasn't meant in a complimentary way and the other woman knew she was being mocked, but the girlfriend didn't believe him, so the poor guy got it from both of them.

Janice Terukina plays several variations of a basic motor-mouth, but caps the show with a beautiful change of pace, portraying a woman whose miserable marriage results in recurring dreams of being married to "Mr. Longs" and living with him in a home built over the pharmacy. Perhaps we're supposed to be laughing at this woman, but Terukina's performance touches the heart.

Pukaua Ah Nee, Chance Gusukuma, Albert "Maka" Makanani Jr. and Pamela Staats complete the Po'okela Award-worthy ensemble. Credit also goes to Monica and Squire F. Coldwell (costume design) for coming up with believable everyday attire for all the major characters, plus Longs smocks for Gohara and others.

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