A thrilling heist, an intricate family drama and a slice of Hawaiian history are rolled into one in Kumu Kahua Theatre's production of "The Great Kaua'i Train Robbery," which comes to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's McCoy Studio Theater this Friday and Saturday. Based on the true story of Hawaii's first and only train robbery, the play was written by Lee Cataluna, the great-great niece of the convicted train robber himself.
Cataluna, a columnist for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and a short story writer known for her light and witty pidgin comedies, has the gift of teasing the drama out of seemingly mundane scenarios. In 2005 she published a collection of short fiction, "Folks You Meet in Longs: And Other Stories," which brought local characters and dialect to life. In dramatizing the story of the Kauai train robbery, however, Cataluna got to sink her teeth into much denser stuff.
The story, like most true stories, is richer and more complex than it appears on the surface. In 1920, a robber stole $11,000 dollars from a train carrying plantation workers' wages. The play tells the story of the chief suspect, Hali, a man who will go to any length to protect his family, even if it means taking the blame for a crime he did not commit.
Kumu Kahua Theatre’s cast of “The Great Kaua‘i Train Robbery” featuring Tony Nickelsen (back from left), Justin Fragiao, William Hao, Jason Ellinwood, Puamana Crabbe (front), Wil T.K. Kahele and Lisa Katagiri bring Lee Cataluna’s historical drama to the McCoy Studio Theater stage for performances Friday and Saturday.
Melinda Hill will make you LOL.
Director Kati Kuroda explained in an interview this week, "The story's about a robbery, which triggers everything that happens, but it's more to me about this man and what he endures for love."
Kuroda believes that the strength of Cataluna's script is the depth and complexity of the story's seven characters. "I really like directing shows that have rich characters," she said. "This is a script that actors love, because it gives them the opportunity to sink their teeth into the character they're playing. And what makes this show interesting is that the audience really comes to care about these seven characters."
Unlike Cataluna's previous works, the show does not rely on laughs to keep the audience engaged. But according to Kuroda, the show has deep emotional appeal. "There are some moments of humor, but it's really quite a heavy play, because it's about family, about ups and downs and the challenges of family. So I think it's universal in that most people can identify with it and relate it to their own family."
"The Great Kaua'i Train Robbery" comes to the MACC's McCoy Studio Theater this weekend at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $22 plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
Kumu Kahua Theatre, an Oahu-based company dedicated to producing plays about life in Hawaii, commissioned the work.
"To me, Kumu is probably the most important theater in Hawaii, because it's the only theater that is dedicated to the local experience," said Kuroda. "Other theaters in Oahu, a lot of them do musicals and plays, but they're not necessarily themes and stories that have a Hawaii base, that Hawaii people can relate to. Kumu Kahua is the only theater that does that. They're always open to new, local playwrights and local stories."
"The Great Kaua'i Train Robbery" was a hit with Oahu audiences. Now Kumu Kahua Theatre is bringing the show to Maui for one weekend only. Do not miss this touching and unique piece of Hawaiian history.
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." Melinda will perform her new work, "Marriage Material," an interactive, hilarious dating show.
Melinda Hill performs at 7:30 tonight at the MACC's McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $25 for standard and $45 for VIP with post-show meet, plus applicable fees, available as above.
New Shanghai Circus: Chinese acrobatic skills have been passed on from farmers and craftsmen through generations. Building on the traditional performances, artists of today's New Shanghai Circus have added ayers of complexity with daring new techniques and spectacular stunts, thrilling audiences around the globe.
New Shanghai Circus takes the stage at 4 and 7:30 p.m. Monday and 7 p.m. Tuesday at the MACC's Castle Theater. Tickets are $12, $19 and $25 plus applicable fees, available as above.
Crazy Wisdom Saves the World Again: Friends! Earthlings! Humans! Who are we, how did we get into the mess we're in, and is there any hope for us and our species? Wes 'Scoop' Nisker presents a visionary monologue filled with comedic insights, contemplative revelations and the Buddhadharma.
His innovative dharmic "contemplative cocktail" mixes musical performances, stand-up comedy and Dharma teachings. He explores the foolish human condition and the joys and sorrows of living in the modern age. He will reveal the secrets of the Big Bang and anti-matter, explore the issues of war, species extinction and global warming and expose the true heart of the New Age spiritual movement.
Wes places today's headlines in the context of biological evolution and all of human history, and thereby offers us the relief and laughter that only vast perspectives can bring.
Wes 'Scoop' Nisker performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, at The Studio Maui in the Haiku Marketplace. Tickets are $15 or two for $25. Pre-show dinner prepared by Max's World Bistro starts at 6 p.m. Call 575-9390 for tickets or information.