Laughter makes ‘Triangle’ worth the trek

Something I’ve never witnessed before is happening in Kihei. I’ve overheard seniors protest on several occasions that a play is too sexual, usually involving content, brief nudity or a revealing costume. At the Friday opening of “Bermuda Avenue Triangle,” it was the under-40 crowd who appeared shocked by the sexual nature of senior performers, but the seniors in the audience howled with laughter.

“Triangle” may not be for everyone (it’s definitely not appropriate for children), but it is very funny. And it poses a fascinating question: Why should scantily clad older women using sexually provocative language be any more or less shocking than if they were in their 20s?

Barbara Sedano as Fannie Saperstein and Sharyn Stone as Tess La Ruffa provide polished, professional and realistic performances as two stereotypical angst-filled New Yorkers.

On occasion I have questioned if Maui can pull of New York comedy, but that is not the case with ProArts’ and director Kristi Scott’s production of “Triangle.” Equally strong in both accent and attitude are their daughters Sharleen Lagattuta as Rita and Angela Thompson as Angela.

“Triangle,” be it script or opening-night jitters, was a bit of a slow starter but found its groove upon the arrival of Rabbi Levine, played by Gary Shin-Leavitt. His performance was impeccable and a high spot of the production, down to the walk he chose for nebbishy Rabbi Levine.

After Rabbi Levine convinces the ladies to participate in a hike with seniors in their condo community, Fannie and Tess wander off, resulting in a mugging. Out of the bushes appears Johnny Paolucci, played by Scott Newman, who rescues them despite being in a drunken stupor. Newman’s take on the suave Italian Johnny was a little less than an obvious choice, but once you get used to it, he commands the stage, warranting sympathy, mistrust, disdain and lots of laughs.

My one issue with “Triangle” is: Can two lifelong New York women really be so gullible and so easily duped? However, it’s easy to believe if you desperately want something to be true.

Transformation arises during “Triangle.” Once Johnny weasels his way into permanent friend-with-benefits status, the new Fannie and Tess emerge Vegas-trashy-chic. Their new fashion choices reminded me of “an Australian Transvestite nightmare,” a line out of “This is Spinal Tap.” Costume designer Sarah Loney certainly had fun with this one, and her creations deliver some of the biggest laughs of the night. Caro Walker’s scenic design also garners several laughs from the Pepto-Bismol pink walls, to poker chip pillows and a bustiere handbag.

Also, the concept of “three” echoes throughout the show. There are three main characters, a so-called menage e trois, and three separate transformations. Johnny finally comes clean, telling Fannie and Tess the less than glamorous truth, and the ladies make peace with their daughters, effectively mending two broken relationships.

In the end, authors Taylor and Bologna leave viewers with three ideas – acceptance, forgiveness and love, attributes on which we can all relate.

* “Bermuda Avenue Triangle” continues through Oct. 27. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $22; kamaaina discounts for Hawaii residents are scheduled for showings tonight and Oct. 24. For details, call 463-6550.