- Kennedy Theatre
- News + Events
Review by John Berger (11/19/2020 – Via Facebook)
CATALUNA’S “FLOWERS” COMES TO KENNEDY THEATRE
Lee Cataluna made her debut as a playwright in 1998 with Kumu Kahua’s world premiere production of “Da Mayah,” a delightful and cleverly written comedy starring Eddy Gudoy as charming but inept Hilo mayor Lester Perez, and Krater 96 air personality “Sista Sherry” Clinton as da mayah’s “queen-sized princess” executive assistant and mistress, Sandralene Ferreira. It was a brilliant debut for Cataluna as a playwright with Po’okela Award-worthy performances by Gudoy and Clifton, director R. Kevin Doyle and the talented cast.
Cataluna followed “Da Mayah” with more local comedies. She distinguished herself with the collection of character sketches she created – not all of them written as comedy – for “Folks You Meet in Longs” in 2003. Cataluna has also shown over the years that she can write dark drama. The UH-Manoa Kennedy Theatre production of “Flowers of Hawai’i,” which streams in “Zoom” format this weekend at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, reminds us that she can write very very dark indeed.
Most of the characters in this show are not people you would want to encounter in real life, let alone claim as relatives.
A drug addict goes to his grandmother’s house planning to steal something he can sell to support his habit. She happens to be home, they talk, he begs, and she ends up giving him one of her treasures with the comment that at least he didn’t “konk” her on the head to get it
An annoying self-centered young woman goes ballistic when her mother refuses to cater to her every demand.
Another annoying young woman verbally attacks her father for – among other things — his decision to wear a “Filipino shirt” that was a gift from a Filipino friend to a Filipino party, and for referring to the place that most of us in Hawaii refer to as “the mainland” as “the mainland” instead of calling it “the continent.”
Other sketches involve domestic violence, a police officer’s illicit relationship with another man’s wife, greedy relatives trying to claim a woman’s belongings while she is still alive, and then fighting over them after the funeral, and a woman trying to seduce her sister-in-law.
If some of these sketches sound familiar it’s because an earlier version of the show premiered at Kumu Kahua in 2014.
One of the most memorable sketches in this production involves the experiences of two stoned teenagers who meet in the back seat of car during a relative’s funeral service. It is an imaginative piece of writing that’s beautifully played by the actors – Kahiau Machado (Bain) and Ocean Rea (Jess).
And, in all fairness, director Lurana Donnels O’Malley’s entire cast gives convincing performances in bringing Cataluna’s mixed bag of characters to life, so in addition to applauding Machado and Rea, here’s acknowledgement and credit due to cast members Isaiah Avilla, Taylor Bogan, Ronnie Allen Campman, Moku Durant, Victoria Kashiwai, Romyn Kim Sabatchi and Robert Torigoe for their work as well.
Tickets for “Flowers of Hawai’i” are available at https://www.showtix4u.com/events/kennedytheatre.
Review by Alston Albarado (11/19/2020)
What an interesting year 2020 has become, but as artists we take what we’ve been given and turn it into something new and creative! The University of Hawaii at Manoa’s production of “Flowers of Hawaii” is a fantastic addition to the new developing world of online Zoom theatre. One of Lee Cataluna’s well-known plays is adapted onto the screen via the magic of Zoom and live streaming. The overall design and visual elements of the show work together in unison to transport the viewer into the world of the play seamlessly. Scenes transition with beautiful title slides filled with nuisances of thematic elements and references to Hawaii lifestyle. Even though some actors were using a green screen to blend themselves into different backdrops, a majority of the show was presented in a windowed layout reflecting that of Zoom’s gallery view. I found that this choice helped echo the family’s dynamics and relationships throughout the production, focusing on their different perspectives and viewpoints as the story evolved. The blocking of the show took full advantage of this layout, incorporating strategic prop passes and out of frame moments, to help blur the lines and make the characters feel like they are inhabiting the same space.
Even though “Flowers of Hawai`i” is filled with very dynamic and complicated characters, the actors rose to the challenge of bringing them to life. Many of the actors were double-cast, having to portray multiple characters through the production. Acting choices were distinct and characterizations were powerful. The relationships between characters were very strong, with actors creating unique connections with each other. Being a performer that has worked in this online format previously, connecting with one another is one of the hardest aspects of acting via Zoom. Timing and interplay become vital to focus on, to help push the show forward and establish that important energy flow needed in a live performance. The online format also presents some new challenges and issues that don’t usually have to be dealt with, like internet disconnections. The cast worked well together and were able to push through any online related issues with ease. They were seamless and played it off like nothing happened…just like mishaps in live theatre!
Make sure to watch this fantastic production!
P.S. – Come early for the gorgeous pre-show music and stick around for the intermission music entertainment as well!