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Torment Of Die Kinder

The pure notes of a violin hum through the room as a deepblue light suffuses the stage, revealing the silhouette of a girl on a swing. Just as quickly, the symbol of peace and innocence is interrupted when the lights come up to expose a pair of legs in black lacy stockings peeking from below her short, cozy pajama top. The sprouting of knowledge, awareness, womanhood; the stirrings of curiosity, angst, sexuality.

Oh, and how that theme simmers up and explodes unrelentingly in wave after wave, or should we say tsunami after tsunami, over the audience. Spring Awakening at Manoa Valley Theatre tackles all the heat and tumult of adolescence and topics that even today are only whispered about in society: self-gratification, physical abuse, incest and ever so much more. Several scenes are hard to watch, but just as hard not to.

Frank Oliva

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Frank Oliva with his artwork. Vinicius Silva photo

The play was such an outrage when it was written in 1891 Germany that it was banned. Given a contemporary musical makeover it’s modern, yet that antiquated background drenches it with a feel of nostalgia. Even if we’ve never personally experienced them, every teen dilemma suddenly becomes our own.

As the 15 “teens” belt their hearts out, alternately writhing, leaping and tumbling across the stage, you marvel at their voices and dexterity. And at the use of every inch of the stage which is at once a childhood playground as well as a space where the darker elements play out. The lead girl (Elise Levin as Wendla) spellbindingly captures that awkwardness of teen-hood with every movement and expression. But then, every character is spot-on and each has showstealing moments.

Craig Howes as Adult Men represents everyman, figuratively and literally. He’s the cold teacher, the morality-lecturing priest, the iron-fisted father; but he also tearjerkingly shows the pain of the misguided parent. In one scene he expresses such a range of emotion as a grief-stricken father, all without a word. All those guiltridden questions parents ask themselves: What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? If only …? And the prudish, self-serving adults are plenty culpable in this tale.

The show is billed as suitable for ages 14 and up. At intermission a woman asked her older companion, “Would you bring your 14-year-old?” The answer was “Hell no!” By the end of the conversation they both agreed that it would certainly open the door for difficult conversations, about topics the child will become privy to soon enough in less safe realms, be it peers or the Internet or personal experience.

the TICKET stub


When: Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday 8 p.m.; matinees are Saturday at 3 pm. and Sunday at 4 p.m. through March 25.
Where: Manoa Valley Theatre
Cost: $20 to $35
More Info: 988-6131


Dotted Fantasyland

You get a rush of “happy” when you survey the walls carrying Frank Oliva’s art at Mu’umu’u Heaven (767 Kailua Road, showing through March 29). It’s like a chic version of button candy … rows of juicy colorful dots. Savor the little raised paint droplets of glistening gold, red, purple, green and the way, all lined closely together, they swirl across the canvas creating a map of sorts. He does indeed depict maps … of our Hawaiian Islands and more. In “Aboriginal Delta,” you can make out land masses, fields, a river. A retired civil engineer, Oliva got his idea for the piece from an aerial photo of the San Francisco Bay delta in Civil Engineering magazine that and a trip to Australia where he developed a knack for aboriginal art, the kind you see on rain sticks and didgeridoos.

“This is a typical aboriginal art,” says the maestro pointing to “Aboriginal Paths” “the pathways, the circles, maybe a watering hole, maybe a particular trail. But I don’t attempt to try to depict their dreamtimes, their stories, their legends, because that’s very personal to them.”

The Kailua artist works in bits and spurts, with each piece taking a total of about 80 hours to complete. On display is his latest series, “Fantasia,” offering a festive take on “Earth,” “Spring,” “Solar,” “Sweet” and “Purple,” with the attractive themes bursting from the canvas like a brilliant sprinkle of confetti.

“I’ll read about an author who doesn’t know where the characters in his novel are going to take him … well, I don’t know where this is going to go sometimes. I have sort of a rough idea and then I just go with it,” he adds. He’s had no formal training, just inspiration from a collection of trading cards of famous paintings and a love of painting and drawing that’s persisted since his boyhood days.