Enthusiasm for Nothing is the Same
|December 10, 2013||Posted by Troy M Apostol under Staff Reviews|
Troy M. Apostol is Director for Hitting The Stage. He is a frequent contributor to Hawai‘i’s theatre scene, mainly in acting and directing.
Having been in the 2005 incarnation of Nothing is the Same also directed by Mark Lutwak at Honolulu Theatre for Youth, it was a joy to finally be able to see the play from the audience’s point-of-view. It was like revisiting an old friend, or coming back to the house one grew up in as a kid. The memories were warm and comforting. Sitting in on a morning school show this past Thursday amongst a theatre full of older elementary school students was especially endearing, as I was finally able to experience the play in all its intended glory.
The play, written by accomplished and award-winning playwright Y York, tells the story of four childhood friends living in Wahiawa on that fateful December 7th in 1941 when Japanese bombers flew over the middle of O‘ahu as part of their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. The friends, caught up in the aftermath of the attack and surrounded by paranoia and suspicion against the Japanese, have their friendships and patriotic identities tested as families are rounded up and put into internment camps. York originally developed the play through interviews she conducted with Wahiawa elders who experienced the “day which will live in infamy” as children.
After a slow start while the student audience was still trying to get used to their surroundings and the strange conventions of seeing a live theatre show, Junior Tesoro and Maile Holck got the children laughing heartily with the antagonizing back-and-forth of their characters George and Bobbi, respectively. And when Alvin Chan‘s character Mits suffered alienation and rejection, the young audience responded appropriately with empathic consternation and sadness. For the most part, the students seemed to be genuinely interested and engaged in the show and characters, despite all the obligatory wriggling going on in the seats.
One thing that the students did not seem to enjoy was the stage combat. Whenever Kala’i Stern‘s character, Daniel, walked on stage, the students seemed to sit relatively still, presumably waiting to see if the bully Daniel would beat up one of the other characters. When the fights finally did break out, the attentive students seemed quite disappointed with the half-hearted choreography. One student in front of me even exclaimed, “So fake!” at the end of the last, biggest fight.
That same student also commented on Daniel’s “chawan bowl” hair style, saying “Kala‘i looks like Moe.” Apparently he’s a Three Stooges fan.
Another aspect of the show that seemed to take the kids out of the world of the play was the decision to make the “river” offstage left. The students had no problem believing the characters were going into the water when they went off of the stage lip, but when the actors “swam” behind the stage left black curtain to get to the back stage area, the students chuckled as the believability of the environment was broken. Also, when the other actors on stage yelled to those swimming in the river, the yellers were forced to turn upstage slightly, making audibility a problem.
All in all though, the show was well-received. The student audience cheered enthusiastically when the show was over, and when I asked the very opinionated student in front if he disliked anything about the show he replied, “Nothing.” Heh, kids.
Nothing is the Same plays for one more weekend. See it, and experience Hawai‘i’s history through the eyes of a child…