Adaptations and remakes can be tricky. That's probably why no one would dare attempt a "Gone With the Wind" musical. S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders" is a perfect tale of teenagers as told by a teenager. Playwright Christopher Sergel has done an admirable job of staying true to the story, and director Chris Kepler has once again chosen a strong dramatic piece for his teen students. Sergel's adaptation relies too much on exposition and monologues, but it is through that exposition that most of Hinton's exact words remain intact. Kepler's casting choices take a bit of getting used to, but after seeing what those young actors bring to their roles this subsides. The more mature-looking and physically bigger Greasers appear to tower over their feared nemeses, the Socs. (It's pronounced So-shis, short for the high school social club set.)
Shawn Naone-Burger is quite amazing as Ponyboy. The number of lines alone would terrify an actor twice his age. Levi "Beast" Young's portrayal of Ponyboy's domineering older brother, Darry, is so strong that he comes across as 24 or 25. Tully O'Reilly steps out of tech duties making his stage debut as middle brother, Sodapop, and plays the peacemaker role very well, especially when heartbroken over losing his troubled girlfriend, Sandy (Ashley "Kimi" Erickson). Kaulana Kaili also presents himself well beyond his years along with some great comic timing. "The Outsiders" is a tale that loses its power if you already know the whole story. For that reason I'm choosing not to reveal the entire plot.
After repeated beatings of the Greasers by the Socs have been established, Ponyboy, Johnny (Joshua Berman) and Dallas (Dylan Thomas) sneak into a drive-in, where they meet two female classmates who are Socs, Cherry (Katarina Kress) and Marcia (Jazmin Santiago). Ponyboy and Cherry have a connection and begin their transformation, realizing that they are not so different after all, ala Capulet vs. Montague or Jets vs. Sharks. Kress has a stage confidence and style that is endearing and I thoroughly enjoyed every scene she appeared in.
It is, however, Berman's Johnny and Thomas' Dallas who steal the show. The tall Berman might seem physically wrong as the soft-spoken, insecure Johnny, but he embodies Hinton's wounded puppy dog intentions. The smaller Thomas counters Berman wonderfully as the intense, hard-hearted Dallas, not unlike James Dean protecting Sal Mineo in "Rebel Without a Cause." Of course every drama department has two or three girls to every one boy. "The Outsiders" is extremely heavy with male roles, so necessity required many cast members to paint on a five o'clock shadow. Kudos to Kiana-G Morrison, Savannah Wisenbaker, Jaya Bauer (doubling as student assistant director), Sami Prince, Malia Kimmel, Angel Fergerstrom, Fiona Wais, Zo Wender, Dara Reckard, Feona Rehfuss, Cynthia Kealoha and Aislin Smith for "rumbling."
Dangerous choices are made in "The Outsiders." Hinton asks us all to be like "the gallant young men" from "Gone With the Wind" to be pono and preserve a little trusting innocence through gold-colored glasses even when our hardened hearts tell us we're going to get jumped.
Don't miss the final weekend of this powerful production!
* King Kekaulike Drama Club presents "The Outsiders," adapted by Christopher Sergel based on the 1967 coming-of-age novel by teenage author S. E. Hinton. Performances are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the King Kekaulike cafetorium. Tickets are available at the door only, $8 for adults, $4 for students, available a half-hour before showtimes. Be advised "The Outsiders" utilizes a fog machine, stage knives and gun fire. It contains teen violence and mild sexual content; parental guidance is suggested.
In addition, the MIL basketball championship will be held in the King Kekaulike Gym adjacent to the cafetorium on Friday. The Drama Club is offering half-priced tickets for the Friday performance and both campus parking lots will be open to the public.