Da Kine Shakespeare

Twelf Nite O Wateva!, with its legendary string of performances dating to the early ’70s, is coming to Mission Houses Museum. After the success of A Midnight Summer Night’s Dream on the Kahua Hookipa outdoor stage last year, the folks at Mission Houses are giving us a hana hou with local flavor.

“If you’ve read Twelfth Night before, our production follows the story carefully,” says costumer Peggy Krock. “Reading it in pidgin was a revelation for me, because I’ve done costumes for the play (original version) twice before and when I read it in pidgin, I was, oh wait a minute, that’s what Shakespeare meant. The script gave me insight into what he was really talking about, because they get right into the nitty-gritty without mincing words(laughs).”


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Mahealani (Danielle Zalopany) rebuffs Prince Amalu (James Keawe Bright)

This is the great Bard, but dressed in palaka print, rice sack clothing and beer can hats. Krock’s specialty is historical costuming – working for the likes of Cemetery Pupu Theatre and Iolani Palace – and at this point the ’70s is history, too, right?

“The year is 1974,” she says. “The clothing at the time was pretty amazing. It was 100 percent bulletproof polyester for the most part. I’ve tried to get that sense of the leisure suit look. The colors the women wore were psychedelic – brilliant, horrific, muumuu. I’m trying to give everybody a flashback into that period of woeful fashion, which is fun, and it’s great for a laugh.”

With the annual Hawaii Shakespeare Festival in full force, director Wil Ha’o faced a shortage of actors to cull from. The crew he did manage to gather had tight schedules, resulting in the very first full cast rehearsal happening only four nights before curtain.

On top of clamoring for rehearsal time, a series of mishaps set the cast back a bit, including a stage manager out with tonsillitis, a lead actor plagued by laryngitis and the loss of a cast member (with one of the cafe staff filling in). But the the show will go on.

“It’s been a game of catch-up, but this cast is so beautiful,” says Ha’o. “With all the small things that go wrong, something good happens.”

Sometimes major good things happen, including money coming through for a new Bose sound system, so no straining to hear these actors.

The story begins with the quintessential lovesick Prince Amalu (James Keawe Bright) standing in his grove, pining away for Princess Mahealani (Danielle Zalopany). But his love is unrequited, as Mahealani’s father and brother have recently died and she has forsaken men.

“Then we see Lahela (Dawn Gohara),” says Ha’o. “She and her twin brother were in a storm at sea. She (ends up) dressing like a man to work for the prince. She becomes a ‘he,’ answering to Honey Boy, and works as a messenger between the prince and Mahealani, but she falls in love with the prince.

“Princess Mahealani is a real tita. She has all these servants: a pake gardener, a Filipino suitor, Uncle Opu who’s a drunk, a tita Japanese maid and Malolio, the head servant. Mahealani falls in love with Honey Boy. Of course, everything eventually works itself out.”

The set theme is a local-style backyard gathering, with guests invited to arrive at 5 p.m. for picnicking. The new Good Eats cafe will be open for food purchase and the show’s musicians also will entertain prior to the show.

Twelf Nite is close to Ha’o’s heart, having first seen it when it opened back in ’74: “I was in high school and I just went, ‘Wow!’ That was my first local play. I was stunned.”

That first production included the Booga Booga comedy trio of Ed Ka’ahea, Rap Reiplinger and Twelf Nite scriptwriter James Grant Benton. Successive shows featured a couple members of the current cast, including director Ha’o as the male twin.

“You’re going to recognize the whole company (in the current cast),” notes Ha’o. “You’ve seen all of them somewhere or other on the local stages. The bottom line is we’re creating a gift and we’re doing it with joy.”

That gift has some priceless moments, like the reaction of the twin brother (Jason Kanda) when Mahealani surprises him with her affections, and an inspired monologue by Malolio (Wil Kahele) as he reads a letter he thinks is from Princess Mahealani. Then there’s Princess Mahealani, who is all curves and come-ons, and Kati Kuroda, as the tita servant, is a force of nature – one tutu you no like mess wit!

the TICKET stub

When: Aug. 9-10 and 16-17 at 7 p.m.
Where: Hawaiian Mission Houses Cost: $16-$20
More Info: 447-3926 or missionhouses.org.