Maui OnStage brought fringe theater to Maui last weekend with some exciting results. A marathon of short plays, skits, comedy acts, poetry and music, the Maui Fringe Festival was modeled after the original Edinburgh Fringe Festival established in 1947. Of course, there was only one weekend, one performance venue and 10 shows, but even the Edinburgh Festival started out small. The biggest problem was that sleepy weekend Wailuku, with its closed shops and coffee house, lacked the energy of a big city street fair. Next year, coffee, snacks and live music between shows could add the festivity this year's festival was missing.
Audiences go to a fringe festival expecting variety, and that is exactly what they got. Long, short, funny, serious, perfectly executed, barely rehearsed . . . there was little bit of everything.
"Inside Stretched Out" by Pat Masumoto was a funny, if a bit confusing, peek into the rehearsals of a bold original play. It featured some hilarious exchanges between the eccentric director (Will Makozak), and the actors, especially the leading man (Joel Agnew). Playwright Masumoto also performed a selection of gutsy and thought-provoking original poetry.
Poster art for Sharyn Stone’s dramatic memoir, one of many festival highlights.
"Last Questions," by Marilynn Hirashima, was a portrait of a dead man from the points of view of his four very different daughters. The show was an interesting exploration of gaps in perspective and the difficulty of judging character, but at moments it seemed a bit heavy-handed. A highlight of the show was the monologue by Barbara Sedano, who played the flaky, alcoholic daughter who blames her father for her crumbling life. Sedano's performance was simultaneously relatable, touching and amusing. Carolyn Wright also proved her acting talent as the emotionally damaged daughter who believes her father molested her.
"The Trojans," by Lee Brady, was a reunion between two old war buddies (Dennis McIntyre and Charlie Dungans) with a surprising twist at the end. McIntyre made the audience laugh while Dungans did a good job of grounding the performance.
Talented singer Andrea Giammattei mixed sassy and inspiring in her compilation of songs and stories, "Gotta Live." A highlight was her anecdote about the hot gynecologist she almost worked up the nerve to ask out.
My favorite show was Sharyn Stone's "No Intention of Doing Either," a dramatic memoir about growing up in Australia, enduring a dysfunctional childhood, getting along with the "nice guy American" husband of her dreams, and learning to love herself, forgive her mother and let go of the past. Frank Kane's live music and sound effects added energy and texture. The show was taut, streamlined, emotionally loaded and courageously honest.
The 2011 Maui Fringe Festival set the stage for even more intriguing theatrical experiments next year. Bravo to Maui OnStage and all the writers, directors and performers for a courageous and successful endeavor.