Since October, "LOL@ MACC" has brought top comedians from around the country to Maui for unforgettable one-night-only performances. The series has featured Chris Franjola, Bret Ernst and last Saturday, Las Vegas-based comedian Rita Rudner.
Rudner, voted "Best Comedian in Las Vegas" eight years in a row by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, cracked jokes about families, relationships, men, women, Las Vegas, shopping, cooking and just about everything else she encounters in her day-to-day life.
Her material might have bordered on clich if it were not for her natural, earnest delivery and occasional surprising observations. She directed her jokes mostly at the 40-and-over crowd, who share many of her experiences of marriage, raising a family and growing older; but as a younger audience member I found plenty to relate to as well, especially her material on relationships, fashion and the outrageous Las Vegas culture.
Vegas favorite makes the MACC LOL by finding the humor in almost everything
Rudner's warm, easygoing style was perfect for the intimate McCoy Studio Theater. Watching her perform felt a bit like chatting with a particularly witty and talkative friend.
When I interviewed her a few weeks ago, she told me, "I prefer, just like I'm talking to you, to talk like that. I like people to get images in their heads and to put them together themselves. I don't like to tell people what to think. I like it when I can use as few words as I can to create a very, very dramatic image. And that makes people laugh."
Rudner's casual style and down-to-earth material made her show light and fun. Free of commentary on politics, war, corruption, climate change, health care, or anything else audiences would hear about on the news when they got home, Rudner's act was pure entertainment. I left the theater in a great mood, still laughing at her jokes.
Allowing her listeners to stop thinking and just enjoy themselves is Rudner's main goal. "People who come to a theater really want to be entertained," she said. "It's not easy to come to a theater - you have to find a babysitter, you have to find a parking space, you have to get in traffic - it's hard!" For that reason, she explained, "I don't really like to talk about politics. I leave it out of my act, because I don't want to be there to lecture people on what they should think. I like people to have a good time and to forget their troubles."
Next time you visit Las Vegas, catch Rita Rudner at her own theater at Harrah's. Or if you like your laughs closer to home, don't miss the next comedian in the "LOL@ MACC" lineup, Melinda Hill, who takes the McCoy Studio Theater stage on Jan.13.
"Little Women - The Musical": Six generations have loved the book. Now Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" comes to Maui as a delightful musical. Another bold venture from Hana Arts, "Little Women - The Musical" is living evidence that small communities can do great things. With a string of hits, most recently a sold-out run of "Guys and Dolls," this midwinter show and its 20 songs add to a solid reputation for excellence. Directed by Joyce Mitchell-Mynar and Linda Enriquez Meyer, the show stars Kelly Kristofferson, Joyce Mitchell-Mynar, Linda Enriquez Meyer, Jerry Eiting, Barbara Sedano and Christopher Radko.
* "Little Women - The Musical" takes the stage at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Dec. 30 at the Wananalua Church in Hana. Tickets are $15, $25, $50 and $5 for children under 12. Call 248-7569 for tickets.
"The Fantasticks": In the new year, ProArts will resume its run of "The Fantasticks," the longest-running musical in history. This wonderful parable tells of a young man and the girl next door, their scheming parents, romance, disillusionment and the realities of love. Directed by Doug Kendrick, the show features some of Maui's most talented performers, including Robert Wills, Leighanna Locke and Tom Althouse. With book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt, "The Fantasticks" includes such great tunes as "Try to Remember," "Soon It's Gonna Rain," "I Can See It, " and "They Were You."
* "The Fantasticks" performs weekends at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 7 through 16 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for kids 12 and under. Call 463-6520 for tickets.
LOL@MACC with Melinda Hill: Laugh out loud with Melinda Hill, a Los Angeles-based comedian, actress and writer who has performed stand-up all over the world at theaters, clubs, colleges and for U.S. troops in Guam, Singapore, Hawaii, the Marshall Islands and beyond. LA Weekly describes her comedy as "bubbly, adorable, outlandish, funny" and Buzzine Magazine claims she "puts the fun back in funny and the smart back in smarty-pants." Hill will perform her new work, "Marriage Material," an interactive, hilarious dating show.
* Melinda Hill performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday Jan. 13 at the MACC's McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $25 for standard and $45 for VIP with post-show meet, plus applicable fees. Tickets are available at the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
"The Great Kaua'i Train Robbery": "The Great Kaua'i Train Robbery" is a historical drama with a strong emotional core and a nostalgic, bittersweet tone. Set on Kauai in the early 20th century, this play was inspired by a series of real events: a dramatic train robbery (the only one in Hawaii's history), investigation of the crime and the ensuing trial. The main character is a man named Hali, whose devotion to his loved ones and deep sense of social responsibility drives the play and ultimately makes him a suspect in the case. Kumu Kahua Theatre commissioned Lee Cataluna as playwright.
* "The Great Kaua'i Train Robbery" shows at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14 and 15 at the MACC's McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $22 plus applicable fees, available as above.