Last week I talked about Maui theater taking risks and pushing the envelope as we embark upon the 2011-12 theater season. First up, Kihei's ProArts Playhouse presents the little known "Social Security" by the under-appreciated Andrew Bergman. If you know from comedy, you may have heard him referred to as "the unknown king of comedy." His first gig? Warner Bros. and Mel Brooks bought his treatment "Tex X," which became "Blazing Saddles," the sixth greatest comedy of all time, according to the American Film Institute. Although Brooks did not need to employ him to adapt the original idea, Brooks was so impressed that he hired Bergman to co-write the screenplay with himself and Richard Pryor. Pretty sweet first real job, huh?
Bergman went on to write, co-write, direct and produce such hits as "The In-Laws," "Fletch," "Soapdish," "The Freshman," "Striptease," "Honeymoon in Vegas" and "Isn't She Great." "Social Security" was a big New York hit in the mid-'80s, but like Bergman, remains relatively unknown.
To producer Jonathan Lehman's knowledge it has never been done in Hawaii. Its original cast featured Marlo Thomas, Ron Silver and Olympia Dukakis. Lehman describes the show as "laugh-a-minute" and in the "style of a classic Neil Simon comedy like 'Barefoot in the Park' with a little 'Golden Girls' glaze on top." I'm not sure I like the idea of a "Golden Girl" glaze, but how could I not toss in that nugget?
Joyce Romero and Chaney Cramer share a moment in ProArts’ “Social Security.”
JACK GRACE photo
Kristi Scott directs a cast that includes Chaney Cramer ("Rats!") as Barbara, Kevin Hazelton ("Driving Miss Daisy") as David, Joyce Romero ("Driving Miss Daisy") as Sophie, Norman Halip ("Arsenic & Old Lace") as Maurice and newcomers Angela Thompson and Jonathan Yudis as Trudy and Martin.
When asked when she last directed a nonmusical, Scott had to think about it, guessing four years.
"What I like about (nonmusicals) is that it allows for more collaboration with the actors. At its heart it is a show about finding love and refinding love" she explains. "It's an old-age love story and a middle-age love story. It's funny, and lovely and sweet."
The plot centers around a trendy New York couple, art gallery owners Barbara and David. Their perfect 1980s yuppie world is upended when Barbara's uptight sister and brother-in-law, Trudy and Martin, deposit their eccentric mother, Sophie, on the doorstep. Sophie is introduced to a suave, aging artist named Maurice who brightens her life in ways she never expected. Joyce Romero plays the eccentric, a role created by Olympia Dukakis, and we can expect nothing less than a phenomenal performance from one of Maui's most beloved thespians. Romero has been quite busy over the past few years portraying the sassy older Mom, most notably in last season's "Driving Miss Daisy," also presented by ProArts. Don't be surprised if she pops up again later this season in Maui OnStage's "On Golden Pond."
When I asked Scott about the idea of little, inimitable shows, she expressed her excitement in her new contributing role with ProArts.
"It's nice to direct in this space. ProArts is developing a strong name, providing quality lesser-known productions. I'm proud to be a part of that."
She's also excited about the small realistic set. "You feel like you're in an apartment." Combined with the intimate size of the ProArts Playhouse it will probably create a fly- on-the-wall vantage point for audiences to experience the comic domestic squabble.
The set and scenery are built and designed by Maui workaholic Caro Walker. An accomplished artist outside of her set-building life, "Social Security" allows Walker to display her wonderful paintings as well. Of equal importance when doing a period piece, costumer Marsha Kelly will be bringing an '80s look to the cast. There's a reason theater people keep all that stuff in the back of a closet. Make an '80s night out of it, tie a pastel sweater around your shoulders, hit a sushi bar, crack a Bartles and James (yes, they still make it) and listen to Sade on the ride home.
* "Social Security" contains some adult content. It plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday this weekend and continues at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 18 at the ProArts Playhouse. Thursdays and Saturdays are kamaaina nights, with $15 tickets with Hawaii I.D. Regular-price tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students 18 and under. Call 463-6550 for tickets or more information.
Also this weekend
Own a piece of Historic Iao Theater history. Maui OnStage will be having a theater street sale at this week's First Friday celebration in Wailuku. Set pieces, costumes, props and art from such past shows as "Chicago," "The Wedding Singer," "Little Shop of Horrors," "A Christmas Story," "Cats" and many more.
Wanda Sykes at the MACC: Called "one of the funniest stand-up comics" by her peers, Wanda Sykes is ranked among Entertainment Weekly's 25 Funniest People in America. From movies to TV shows to stand-up and comedy tours, she has proven that funny is her business. She is coming to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sept. 9. Get tickets early!
* Tickets are $46, $66 and $76, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or mauiarts.org.
"Damien": Vinnie Linares reprises his role as Father (now Saint) Damien in celebration of the 10th anniversary of his hit one-man show. Three free performances will be presented at the Historic Iao Theater, Saturday Sept. 10 through Sept. 12.
* Performances at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 and 11, 6:30 p.m. Monday as part of Maui OnStage's monthly ONO! series. Call 244-8680 for more information.
Don't miss MAPA's 23rd annual Garden Party, "Celebrating Broadway": Mingle with top musical theater performers including Jerry Eiting, Steven Dascoulias, Leighanna Locke and many more as they entertain with show tunes from past MAPA productions. Guests are encouraged to dress up as their favorite Broadway characters and enjoy an elegant afternoon of sipping wine, indulging in fine cuisine and strolling the lovely Yokouchi family estate in historic Wailuku. This year's vendors include Whole Foods, Maui Brewing Co., Roy's Kahana, Saigon Caf, Caf O'Lei, Vineyard Foods, Flatbread, David Paul's, Maui Tacos and many more. The accompanying traditional live and auctions include original art, hotel stays, activities, fine jewelry, and themed baskets.
* It happens Sept. 11. Tickets are $125 for VIP reserved seating (private tables available), $75 general seating ($85 at the event) are available by phone at 244-8760 or in person at the MAPA office, the Garden Party is for adults 21 and over only. New to the annual event is Garden Green, pay $75 and you get a Garden Green certificate worth $100 to be spent at auctions and the Garden Shoppe (advanced purchase only). For more information contact MAPA at 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org.
"The Garden of BE" by Tess Cartwright: A joyous musical fantasy for all ages. Original music by Joe DeRose, original choreography by Aly Cardinalli, directed by Steven Dascoulias. Sept. 23 to Oct. 2 at the Historic Iao Theater. Performances 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.
* Tickets are $40, $22, $15 and $10 for children 12 and younger. For more information, contact Maui OnStage at 242-6969 or visit mauionstage.com.