Donuts And Laughs At Tag

Nothing says entertainment like glowing lights and a cozy space. On the outskirts of downtown’s urban wasteland, Dole Cannery boasts a bevy of activity. There’s the movie theater hubbub and occasional nerdy conventions, like a recent championship. Then there’s that beckoning little corner haunt, lit attractively with beckoning lights. It’s Brad Powell Theatre, sitting proudly in its humble space. When you duck through the door, there’s something about the sagging couch in the narrow waiting area, the bulletin board hung with theatrical announcements and the black cloth draping the doorway, separating the audience from the actors who can be heard in preparation — there’s a touch of “Bohemian loft” to the atmosphere.

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Eli Foster and Ted Guillory Jr.

Now playing in that relaxed and intimate space is Superior Donuts. A&S sat down with the show’s director Brian Gibson:

What interested you in directing this play?

When (artistic director) Brad Powell was putting together the season, he gave me three scripts to read. This was by far the best; it’s such a good script. It’s comedy, and comedy is hard. I like the challenge of that.

Do you look at how other theaters staged it to get inspiration?

I purposely try not to because I don’t want to copy what they’ve done. A lot of it is reading the script and trusting my instincts, and that the things that I find funny when I see the (script play in my head like a) movie, other people will find funny, too.

What is it about the script that jumps out at you?

One thing I really like is it has a couple of African-American characters who are playing roles you don’t get to see a lot. In this play, you’ve got one character who is a Chicago police officer and another who is a young college student.

I understand you are in the play?

Not by choice. We ran out of actors, so I have a small role. There are some male-heavy plays right now, so one of our strategies for dealing with that was we tried to flip the gender of a couple of the characters, but when we get the license rights, we sign an agreement that we won’t make changes to the script, including changing the gender of characters. We tried, but couldn’t get permission to do it.

How hard is it to act in a play that you’re directing?

It’s ridiculous. I don’t know how Ben Affleck or Clint Eastwood direct themselves. It’s two completely different mindsets. It’s very difficult.

What can you say about the actors?

I’m convinced 80 percent of good directing in theater is finding the right actors for the roles. I got lucky and found some very good actors who are able to … it’s not that they’re able to change into a character, but some part of them already is that character. That makes it very easy.

As I take it, the story is about a guy who owns a doughnut shop in 1960s Chicago and a young black man comes in with ideas to make it more hip. Is that the gist of it?

Yes. I’m reluctant to give away anything else.

What is in store for the audience?

A combination of comedy and drama. You’ll feel a pull on the heartstrings. I hope people come out to be entertained and laugh and, at the end, feel like they have witnessed something true to life.

the TICKET stub
When: May 8-31
Where: Brad Powell Theatre
Cost: $14-$25
More Info: 722-6941, taghawaii.net

ALSO SHOWING
Melodrama Under The Stars

For some open-air theatrical entertainment, Lanikai Mortgage Players presents Filthy Riches or, You Cad, Your Three Minutes Are Up! (May 15-24, 262-5482) at Lanikai Park. The melodrama is set on Wall Street in the late 1800s, and where there’s wealth, there are con artists.

“Traditional melodrama was imported to America from Europe and became popular during the 19th century,” says LMP actor and president Roger Tansley. “Melodrama has clearly drawn characters and simple plots that highlight ethics and morals in a simple, easily followed manner. The necessary components of melodrama are a heroine hounded by a villain, an upstanding hero who saves the day, comic relief provided by a servant, and strict poetic justice meted out to the villain because the villain is always defeated in a melodrama.”

The play’s scriptwriter Nelson Shreve spearheaded LMP in 1975 as a way to pay off the mortgage on Lanikai Park and Community Center. Among the production’s cast of 10 are John Wilson and Keith Merriam, who appeared in the show’s 1985 debut and will make a reprise here, while Debbie Lamb and Melissa Garcia will be appearing with LMP for the first time. The actors all hail from Lanikai and Kailua, and the affair has become a social time for visiting with friends or, says Tansley, for celebrating a birthday or special occasion.

Filthy Riches is loosely based on Hetty Green, an extremely wealthy, eccentric woman of the Gilded Age known as the ‘Witch of Wall Street.’ The plot intertwines the usual melodramatic components of good and evil by introducing a naive young inventor to the soulless villains of Wall Street.”

An olio (variety show) completes the evening.