Eddie Lives On

From a tragedy to a talk, a book, a dramatic reading and finally a full-blown, giant-puppet production, Marion Lyman-Mersereau has rendered the story of famed Hawaii waterman Eddie Aikau anew. Lyman-Mersereau was the lone woman aboard the Hokule’a on that legendary day in 1978 when the boat capsized at the start of its journey to Tahiti … and Aikau paddled for help. When Lyman-Mersereau was invited soon thereafter to speak about the experience to a class of keiki who were studying Hawaiian culture, she found herself wanting a less bleak ending than Aikau disappearing at sea. Thus, her children’s book Eddie Wen’ Go: The Story of the Upside Down Canoe (2008) was born. She then adapted the book into an award-winning play script, followed by a staged reading.


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Leiney Rigg and Garett Taketa as joyfully morbid couple Morticia and Gomez. PHOTO COURTESY OF MANOA VALLEY THEATRE

Now, with the collaboration of director Mark Branner, head of the UH Department of Theatre for Young Audiences, as well as UH student dancers and puppeteers, the story is coming to life in grand style. The students will maneuver sea creatures, including a 24-foot humpback whale-narrator, while slack-key guitarist

Danny Carvalho plays original musical compositions live. Adding a particularly haunting touch to the performance, will be a voice-over dialogue recording with Clyde Aikau’s voice standing in for older brother Eddie, and Dave Lyman’s ― Marion’s brother and captain of the 1978 voyage, who has since passed away ― being voiced by younger brother Danny.

The story of Eddie has touched our collective historical consciousness with a sense of proud sorrow, but Lyman-Mersereau describes how she fashioned that fateful moment into an uplifting tale for children. She started by creating characters common in Hawaii’s sea waters ― honu, shark, dolphin and more:

“Once I did this, I started the story and when I got to the part where Eddie paddled away, I realized I didn’t know what happened next. This may sound weird … but I kept writing and the characters told me the rest of the story. I felt more like a vehicle than the writer, and what I learned from the story and my own experience is that death is part of life rather than the end of it, a transformation rather than an ending.

The story translates into one of heroic action and sacrifice in service of others rather than one of trauma.”

Criteria for crew selection included physical conditioning, sailing know-how and psychological compatibility. Lyman-Mersereau recalls her last vivid memory of Aikau was one night when he played slack key and sang a beautiful song he had composed for all those trying out for crew selection.

The author, and now playwright, still engages in water sports. She realized her dream of sailing to Tahiti aboard the Hokule’a on Nainoa Thompson’s first voyage. One of her two sons is sailing on the Hokule’a during a segment of its four-year round-the-world voyage that launched this year.

Meanwhile, Lyman-Mersereau continues to teach middle school students at Punahou as she has for more than 30 years, and she just retired from 34 years of coaching paddling there.

Her aborted 1978 voyage returns to the forefront as she presents to youngsters and their families, Eddie Wen’ Go, which she hopes will be “a magical and mystical experience for all.”

the TICKET stub

When: Sept. 19-20 for general public, Sept. 16-20 for schools
Where: Hawaii Theatre
Cost: $5-$10
More Info: 528-0506, hawaiitheatre.com

Immersion in the Macabre

How poetically harmonious for the Hawaii premiere of The Addams Family musical (through Sept. 28, 988-6131) to take place in a theater fronted by a cemetery. Yes, it’s Manoa Valley Theatre, with director Hannah Schauer Galli inviting us again to comedically indulge our dark side as she did recently, to Pookela recognition, with Toxic Avenger and Young Frankenstein.

The set is perfectly off-kilter with crooked frames, a broken banister and walls covered with torture instruments from handcuffs and a noose to a rack. And it’s accented by eerie lighting, ominous chirpy sounds and a sudden puff of billowing smoke from a doorway. Then we meet the inhabitants, namely Garett Taketa, who’s a hoot as the jovial, amorous Gomez, and Leiney Rigg, who does her part as sexy, icy Morticia. As oft happened on the TV show, normal people come to visit, which only highlights the jubilantly morbid oddities that are the Addams. It’s a joy to watch Dennis Proulx and Suzanne Green as one such unwitting couple entering wacky territory.

Here’s the rub. Addams Family had me missing the edginess of MVT’s Spring Awakening and Next to Normal, and the zany wickedness of Young Frankenstein. This cast feels less comfortable inhabiting their individual characters and less cohesive as a whole, and while the aforementioned selections flirted with outrageousness (and included many Addams cast members), this one plays it safe — except when it comes to the hypnotically plunging, very endowed cleavage of Morticia.