Twelf Nite O’ Wateva!: Ho, Brah, Dats Da Kine!
|August 6, 2013||Posted by Alex Rogals under Staff Reviews|
Alex Rogals is currently a Ph.D. student majoring in Japanese theater at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa. When not reading dusty tomes of knowledge, he enjoys directing and writing for the stage. Alex has also taught classes in Directing, Acting, Educational Theater and Theater History. He is the present lecturer for Theater 101 at UHM.
If music be the food of love, lemme hear more of it, eh? Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives (HMH) decrees this with its second annual summer production, Twelf Nite O’ Wateva! With the success of last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, HMH’s summer performance is back, this time staging James Grant Benton’s local favorite, a pidgin adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will, on its improved stage with a huge cast of performers and musicians.
The adaptation follows the plot of Shakespeare’s play in which a shipwrecked woman, in this case named Lahela (Dawn Gohara), assumes the identity of her lost-at-sea brother, Loka (Jason Kanda), in order to infiltrate the court of the local lovelorn Prince Amalu (James Keawe Bright), who has been trying, quite unsuccessfully, to woo Princess Mahealani (Danielle Zalopany). Of course, Mahealani has her own problems dealing with her drunken Uncle, Count Opu Nui (Ron Encarnacion), a foppish foreign suitor who won’t leave her alone, with Sir Andy Waha (Tony Apilado), and with a stuffy steward named Malolio (Wil Kahele). Things get complicated when Lahela, in an attempt to woo Mahealani on behalf of Prince Amalu, accidentally makes Mahealani fall in love with her (him). Meanwhile, Count Opu Nui, fed up with Malolio’s snobby attitude, schemes with Sir Andy and Mahealani’s maidservant, Kukana (Kati Kuroda), to teach him a lesson.
It is easy to see why this production is a local favorite and an obvious choice for HMH. Benton’s mishmash of Shakespeare and Hawai‘i Pidgin English (Pidgin) provides an excellent example of HMH’s goal of preserving Hawaiʻian language in practice as well as an accurate representation of the melting pot of cultures that make up Hawaiʻi. Director Will Haʻo and his cast capitalize particularly on Hawaiʻi’s multiculturalism and put each ethnic representation at the forefront of characterizations. These representations surpass stereotyping, though, and create a fascinating dynamic and running commentary on race relations and racial integration in Hawaiʻi.
As usual with productions of this play, regardless of its incarnation the clowns steal the show. Encarnacion’s Count Opu Nui plays the part of a malevolent drunk with whimsy, and Apilado serves as a hilarious wimp to Encarnacion’s false bravado. Kuroda is really the gem of this production, as she glides effortlessly through Shakespeare’s words and the Pidgin translations, making Kukana a recognizable Auntie whose eternal wisdom belies her cruel delight in playing a good joke on those who underestimate her.
Of course, the principles, not to be outshone by their hilarious costars, provide plenty of laughs as well. Zalopany’s transformation from a sassy, haughty Princess into a love-crazed maniac highlights Shakespeare’s commentary on the fickleness of love. Additionally, Gohara (who incidentally was in the 1986 production of the play) combines a strong command of Shakespeare’s language with a cornucopia of hilarious facial expressions as she finds herself tangled in Mahealani’s web.
Despite the strong performances of the cast, I would be remiss in noting that this play might not, at first, be for everyone. Shakespeare’s language, combined with Pidgin, may make the plot a bit difficult to follow for those uninitiated in Shakespeare or pidgin. However, this is something that a quick trip to the Internet for a plot synopsis of the play before viewing might alleviate. That being said, if you know Twelfth Night, but not Pidgin, you will be sure to learn the meaning of some great local expressions.
Lastly, as music is an integral part of the play, the live performances both before and during the show offered a welcome local flavor and ambiance to the production. The singing and ukulele playing of Kalau Crisostomo’s Lope, Mahealani’s fool, was both entertaining and charming. However, with musicians continuously placed just off-stage I did wish the production could have found more opportunities to include incidental music to underscore the scenes and build on the cultural atmosphere the scripted music was providing.
Twelfth Night, or What You Will is a Shakespearean play whose destiny was perhaps inevitably bound for a Hawaiʻian overhaul. Its plot’s placement on a mysterious series of islands, its cast of foreign and local characters, and its relationship between classes is something which anyone who has spent any extended period of time in Hawaiʻi will immediately recognize and delight in. Twelf Nite O’ Wateva! gleefully captures these themes and gives its audience a chance to marvel at the misadventures of its characters while simultaneously providing a fun language lesson for those who are looking to bone up on their Pidgin.