I have to add my voice to the chorus of "Bravo!" for the Maui Academy of Performing Arts production of "Les Miserables." Brilliantly executed in every aspect, the show ended its six-performance run at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater last Sunday.
But "Les Miz" wasn't the only crowd-pleaser at the MACC last weekend. On Saturday night, over in the McCoy Studio Theater, a much smaller audience enjoyed the antics of four young and hip, smart and sassy comedians . . . and my mother.
When Mom heard that the cast of "Sullivan & Son" would be performing at the MACC, she asked if we could go. She's a fan of the sitcom, which stars co-creator Steve Byrne as a corporate lawyer who leaves his lucrative job to take over the neighborhood bar owned by his Irish-American father and Korean mother. The stand-up comedy tour features Byrne and three of the bar regulars, but not Mom's favorite character, Ok Cha, the mother. That's OK, Mom said, she still wanted to see the show. I had a prior commitment, so my cousin Betty graciously volunteered to take her.
The first hint that I'd missed the comedy highlight of the year came in a voice mail left by Tony Takitani. "Your mother was a riot tonight . . . she stole the show!" It was too late in the evening to call him back; I had to wait until morning to get the full review.
Eventually, I heard accounts from Tony and others who were there, including Mom herself, but I wish someone had captured the moment on video. I'll bet Steve Byrne feels the same. She'd be a great addition to his website.
Seated in the front row, Mom caught Byrne's attention right away. She said he was polite when he asked her age, and flabbergasted when she answered, "88."
"What's your name?"
"Well, Amy . . ."
Apparently he continued to mispronounce her name on purpose, but she let it slide. "He was really very nice. But I couldn't hear a lot of what he was saying anyway," she told me.
Of course, comedy doesn't always require words. Mom's star turn came when the guys seated her on stage for an up-close view of their, uh, sexy dancing. She's never been to a male strip joint, but she has seen "Magic Mike," so the comics' PG-13 routine didn't shock or embarrass her at all. In fact, she got right into the spirit of the bit and joined in the gyrations, stopping short of giving - or getting - a lap dance. At least that's what everyone, including Mom, told me.
After the show, the comedians gave Mom an official tour T-shirt and posed for a picture with her. Betty emailed me the photo; it's adorable. Mom is half the size and three times the age of the men huddled around her, and they're all grinning like a bunch of old friends at a reunion. Steve Byrne thanked her for attending and for being a good sport. She thanked him too and told him to be sure and come back. "Next time, bring your mom," she said.
She also informed him that she'd seen him perform once before, when he was here in 2007 with the Kims of Comedy, four Korean-American comics. She was by far the oldest one in that audience too. Headliner Bobby Lee (MADtv) stripped down to his little Speedo briefs and did a pole dance with the microphone stand on the Castle stage.
We didn't have front-row seats for that one (thank goodness!), but outside the theater we met Lee and he happily posed for a photo with Mom.
Half an hour later, Mom and I were enjoying a post-show dinner at IHOP when the entire Kims entourage sauntered in. Bobby Lee spotted us from the door and left the group to approach our table. The irreverent maniac we'd seen on stage and at the meet-and-greet had vanished; in his skin was a sweet, almost shy, young gentleman. He thanked us for coming to the show, then with great sincerity, apologized to Mom for its content. He was concerned that she might have been offended or discomforted by his striptease.
She smiled, "I was hoping you'd take off more!"
Mom's been in the front row at each of the five one-woman shows I've done at the McCoy. The sign on her reserved seat usually reads "Tita's Maddah." I think for the next one, I'll follow Steve Byrne's example and put her on the stage instead.
We'll call the show "Yaemi & Daughter."
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.