The night quiets to a starry whisper. And there, on a grassy mound framed with ferns and ti leaves and backed by regal fan palms, appears Queen Hippolyta, Puck and Bottom-of-the-ass’s-head, conjuring their Shakespearean enchantment in front of an outdoor audience. The full feature theatrical action happens for the first time ever on the lawn of Hawaiian Mission Houses.
Fittingly, the evening summer production will be A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In a marriage of history and theatre, the coral blocks making up the base of the Kahua Ho’okipa (outdoor stage) are from the island’s first courthouse, built in 1852. Furthermore, the Mission Houses hold archives of letters, diaries and newsletters in which missionaries wax enthusiastic about Shakespeare.
But all is not ancient with the setting – it features a new LED lighting system so that families arriving with blankets and a picnic will have no problem enjoying the show.
“It’s so different from being indoors,” says director Cecilia Fordham of the airy arena. “The actors have worked very hard on their projection.”
The cast of 22 consists of three groups: The Royals, The Fairies and The Mechanicals, as Fordham terms them. To give the show some local color, The Royals carry instruments of Hawaiian royalty. The entrance of each group is introduced by music – in this case, conch and ipu.
“The homespun fellows, The Mechanicals, are Hawaiian workers,” says Fordham. “Their costumes reflect palaka. They’re paniolo, out in the ranch country, so their music is ukulele and guitar, steel guitar.
“The Fairies have all different sounds
– wind chimes, castanets, cricket sounds
– and they sing.”
Rain or shine, the fairies will be entertaining the audience with their magic … literally. Fordham says they’ve learned from magician Brad Kerwin, so expect a special touch of fire, a wand appearing out of thin air, just enough, she says, to “make a child wonder and an adult go ‘wait a minute.'”
She also promises love and lust. “It’s still a family-oriented show,” she clarifies, “but the adults will catch what’s going on. Bottom, one of The Mechanicals, is turned into an ass for love. That pretty much says what it’s all about. Love is blind, love makes an ass of you.
“The play was written as entertainment for a wedding,” adds Fordham, “so it has music and dancing. It takes place here at this moment, which happens to be in Hawaii, meaning our flora is where the fairies live.”
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
When: Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. through Sept. 1. Doors open at 5 p.m.
Where: Hawaiian Mission Houses (553 S. King St.)
Cost: $20, $16 for students and seniors
Funny Scenes, Clumsy Plot
The plot sounds promising, particularly in this age of Occupy: The little man stands up to the greedy corporation. In the case of Parallel Realities at TAG, it’s a young, intelligent woman who becomes disenchanted with the unscrupulous PR firm that just hired her – and she strikes back.
Ron Heller as the head honcho of the firm doesn’t exude the lasciviousness that the script demands. When he sidles up to Eden Ferrer’s ingenue and inappropriately throws his arm around her during her job interview, he’s the one that gets stiff and uncomfortable; she doesn’t flinch. That off note sets the tone for the play.
Chugging along, dialogue heavy, not quite deciding whether to be a comedy or slapstick, it finally revs into full gear at the end of act one in a hilarious scene with Non deMello as a developer who’s being fed lines by the PR firm in preparation for a newscast. Every line is a sidesplitting home run. There are also intermittent jewels in the form of prerecorded news segments featuring Katherine Aumer and S. Rick Crump as the news anchors.
Some tacky hair-pulling and a raunchy scene involving the word linguist stand out in an otherwise flat act two. Aiko Chinen as the self-seeking she-devil, the most rounded character in the show, makes the latter scene one that you can’t tear your eyes away from. Enough ranting about rail, sewage dumping, stadium inefficiencies and you feel you’re being hit over the head. The clunky plot gives way to an underwhelming denouement, with Ferrer’s character celebrating a questionable triumph. You might be forgiven for buying into the unethical practices of the firm, even becoming a key player. But there’s a difference between blowing the whistle and getting your own hands dirty by beating the corrupt firm at its own game. Both parties emerge looking less than pretty.
Parallel Realities shows Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through Sept. 2. For more information, visit taghawaii.net.