This week's column was supposed to be all about the openings of Maui's 2012-13 theater season. But sadly Maui lost one of its most influential, talented and beloved members of the theater community on Friday night. Bill Schnitzer, most recently seen in ProArts' "Cinderella," has passed of a heart attack. His contributions on stage and off, as well as his kind charitable donations, will be sorely missed but not forgotten. Bill had recently auditioned to participate in the upcoming Maui OnStage production of "the Wizard of Oz." Perhaps it is apropos that he won't be able to perform because when it came to heart, brains and courage, Bill had plenty to spare. He will always be remembered by those who had the luxury to perform with him as a man with a smile on his face, a beautiful laugh and an awful lot of love and knowledge to share. So until we meet again, Bill, as you sang in last year's production of "A Christmas Carol," God rest ye merry, gentle man.
Anyone who appreciates live entertainment and the growing level of island excellence, needs to attend a Seabury Hall production as soon as possible. The brand new A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center is in and of itself an achievement of excellence before the curtain even opens. I attended the gala grand opening on Friday night of "Re-Unite," and felt very privileged to be invited to share in the celebration. The lengthy revue had many a highlight, but one would be unreasonable not to acknowledge the exceptional talents of Casey Kalmenson (Class of '06) and Mollie Bauckham (Class of '93). Both appeared in several stage pieces throughout the show, but my two favorites were Kalmenson's performance of her original song, "Maureen," and Bauckham's solo performance of "Songbird," written by Christine McVie with self accompaniment on the harp.
Maui Actor Bill Schnitzer as seen in “Cinderella.”
Additional highlights included Juliette Green and Isaac Raz's (both Class of '86) "original torch song "Constant Blue," and Kimball Wheeler's (Class of '68) "Mon Coer s'ouvre a ta Voix" by Saint-Saens from the opera "Sampson et Delila." The evening also marked the debut of Maui's newest modern dance company, Adaptations Dance Theater. Hallie Hunt Armato, Vanessa Cerrito and Amelia Nelson (Class of '02) presented and choreographed my personal favorite dance piece of the night to a dissident and compelling arrangement of Beethoven's, "Moonlight Sonata," performed and arranged by Toby Couture. If you missed "Re-Unite" don't fret, Seabury will soon be offering a drama, their annual Christmas dance showcase and a production of "Hello, Dolly" in February. Congratulations to director David Ward, Andre Morissette, Sally Sefton, Todd Van Amburgh, Marsha Kelly, Vanessa Cerrito, Stephen Haines and retired Seabury Hall honorees Lisa Owen and Paul Wood for making the A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center a reality.
London's longest running comedy, "Run For Your Wife," by Ray Cooney, opens Friday at the Historic Iao Theater. The Maui OnStage production, directed by Dale Button, stars John Messersmith, Gina Shure, Hadley Garcia, Jeff Brackett, Jim Oxborrow, Derek Nakagawa, Jason Strahn and Lee Garrow. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. on Sundays through Oct. 14. Reserved seating tickets range from $15 to $28 and dinner packages are available with Bistro Casanova, Wailuku Coffee Co., and Cafe O'Lei at the Dunes. For tickets or more information call 242-6969 or purchase online at mauionstage.com. Please be aware of First Friday traffic, additional free parking is available at the Maui Memorial Medical Group lot on Main Street.
Maui OnStage continues its free theater series, ONO! on Monday, Oct. 8. Please note there will be a 7 p.m. curtain this month, doors at 6:15. Enjoy an evening of scary and suspenseful stories, "Terror Tales," read by Kathy Collins, Pat Masumoto, Lopaka Kapanui and Paul Janes-Brown. The free, one-night only performances are at Historic Iao Theater every second Monday of the month.
King Kekaulike High presents "Salem's Daughter" by Craig Sodaro, directed by Chris Kepler, Oct. 19 through Oct. 28. This chilling tale of suspense promises to draw the audience in and it doesn't let go until the surprising climax. Performances are 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. on Sundays in King Kekaulike cafetorium. Tickets are available at the door half hour before the show. Adults, $8, students $4.
MAPA presents "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare, directed by David C. Johnston at Steppingstone Playhouse at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. The impressive local cast includes Will Makozak in the title role, Beth Williams as Lady MacBeth, Brian Connolly, and many more. Just in time for Halloween, Shakespeare's dark tale of witches and murder opens Friday Oct. 26 and will run at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays through Nov. 11.
Seabury Hall presents a tale of the early days of radio in the Midwest, with "The Voice of the Prairie," by John Olive, directed by Sally Sefton. Performances will be at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 26 through Nov. 3, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday Nov. 4. Tickets are $11 adults, $9 senior citizens and $5 for students. For more information and reservations, call 573-1257.
When in 'Doubt,' read Pulliam's review
ProArts has taken many risks over the years, which is thrilling for theater junkies. Risk requires faith and sometimes it doesn't pay off, but that is not the case with its current production of "Doubt: A Parable." I have a couple of persnickety observations in this review but make no mistake, the production is a triumph and not to be missed.
The story is a simple one, at a Catholic school in the fall of 1964. A young priest, Father Flynn, battles to reform strict traditions, fiercely guarded by the principal, Sister Aloysius. A hopeful new teacher, Sister James, gossips of guilty suspicions that the priest is paying too much personal attention to the school's first black student, setting forward irrevocable consequences. Carla Pew's Sister Aloysius is nearly flawless. Quintessential to the story is an instant dislike of Sister Aloysius, which builds into a respect, but that journey should end at a brick wall of, I don't know. Occasionally I single out acting performances on Maui that are award worthy, Pew's performance is just that - and then some. Her arc of character is so impressive that she makes acting appear easy.
The top-notch performances do not end there, though. Director Kristi Scott and producer Jonathan Lehman have found four new-to-Maui actors that could easily audition for Equity quality productions. A quality theatrical regional theater production should make its audience forget about the movie. Scott's "Doubt" cast accomplishes this about 15 minutes in. Kristin Jones' portrayal of Sister James is heart wrenching and endearing. Her focus and committal to character might be the strongest of the cast. You can't be shy and insecure and play shy and insecure. Jones' training is instantly recognizable and her depiction secures an immediate connection with the audience. Michael Lanzo is physically perfect as Father Flynn and he is a much needed addition to the Maui theater community. Although at times he seems slightly over matched by his counterparts, his sermons are mesmerizing and he plays the charming side to Father Flynn with an ease and grace.
The wow moment of the show however was the performance of Kisha L. Melling as Mrs. Muller opposite Pew's Sister Aloysius. Mrs. Muller is not the most flattering character for a 21st century actress to play. Melling fiercely tackles her role with such devotion, zeal and authenticity that I can not fathom how her performance could have been any better. Melling's picture of a 1960s working class black perspective sends "Doubt" to the next level of what Maui theater can be. On the night I attended several audience members behind me muttered "wow," "oh my God," or simply gasped by the sheer power that one perfect live dramatic scene can be.
My lone moments of distraction were that the set appears to be too crowded. Character movement seems awkward at times and appears as if the actors are maneuvering through an obstacle course. In fairness I may not have noticed those moments, based on the staging, had I been sitting on the right-hand side of the theater. Because "Doubt" is better appreciated without preconceived notions. I am choosing not to reveal any further details of the plot. When the play first opened in 2004, the Catholic Church was reticent towards John Patrick Shanley's examination of child abuse in the church. By the time the film was released in 2008, priests were encouraging their parishioners to go see it from the pulpit. This ProArts production is must see Maui theater.
* "Doubt: A Parable" by John Patrick Shanley, continues at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 14 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Reserved seating is $20. Ask about the $15 kamaaina nights Oct. 4 and 11. "Doubt" is 90 minutes with no intermission and recommended for mature audiences. For reservations or more information call 463-6550 or visit proartspacific.com.