Families: Hate ‘Em, Love ‘Em
The blue ribbon, prize garden award goes to … Kumu Kahua
Theatre for Flowers of Hawaii. Expert cultivation requires quality seeds, prime soil and growing conditions, along with careful tending-to and nurturing. Playwright Lee Cataluna, director Harry Wong III and a superb collection of actors have mastered the formula, achieving a human-scape worthy of admiration and reverie.
The troupe presents nine mostly two-person vignettes that all find a way of intertwining in an epically explosive finale. Yes, Cataluna’s comic sense is fine-tuned, but this play reminds us that her serious subject matter is perhaps even more rousing. Rather, it’s the combination of the two that really hits home.
Meet two people. They are normal, happy people.
Then, in a short period of time, watch the characters make shocking discoveries. Watch tensions rise and revelations occur. Let out belly laughs, only to be stopped in your tracks by something that catches hold of your gut. All 15 characters go from zero to 60 in moments and you’re easily swept up in the ride. Each character is complex and each scene complete unto itself, leaving you tingling with the prospect that when one is over, you still have a few more to go. It’s the garden sale of the season – nine plays in one, and they are odd, spunky, heart-searing and purely of Hawaii.
The music and scene changes string the pieces together into a fluid whole, with meaty subjects touching on rape, infidelity, spouse abuse, racial identity, sexuality, drug addiction, greed and loneliness. But it’s easiest summed up in one word: Family.
In case you overlooked the aforementioned list, be forewarned that the topics are unsettling. In the ladyies room, one woman said she dragged her friend to the show, and she didn’t think her friend was going to talk to her for a while because the friend was rattled by some of Flowers‘ provocative scenes. Flowers is bold, electric and it gives you subject matter to gnash on. As one of the characters says, there are “resentments, secrets, betrayals,” but that’s also what holds the family together, and genuine familial affection – sometimes in the least expected places – manages to surpass the dysfunction. It’s all the varietals of blossoms that make the garden so compelling.
the TICKET stub
FLOWERS OF HAWAII
When: Thursday-Sunday, through Dec. 8
Where: Kumu Kahua Theatre (46 Merchant St.)
More Info: 536-4441, kumukahua.org