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Double your fun with two one-act comedies

ProArts presents absurdist fun, fast-paced farces for March

John Williams (left) and Carol Lem in a scene from “Black Comedy.” Jack Grace photo

As we move into the annual spring downpour of local theater, an early theme has emerged — unconventional highbrow comedy, to be immediately followed by a trio of more familiar youth shows in March.

Next weekend ProArts opens a double-dose of one-act comedies, “Black Comedy” and ” ‘dentity Crisis,” at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei.

I asked Lisa Teichner, director of both plays, how she came to choose the one-acts.

“I wanted to create a fun, funny, fast-paced and entertaining evening for audiences. ‘ ‘dentity Crisis,’ an absurdist farce by Christopher Durang, was the first play I ever directed in 1994. It’s always been one of my favorite shows; it’s very funny, a great vehicle for actors and I am excited to be revisiting it once again and experiencing it with a new cast and audience,” she shared.

” ‘Black Comedy’ is just gold. When I first read it, it immediately went on my short list of plays to direct. It is incredibly unique as the first section of the play — where the plot is set up for the audience — is done in complete darkness. When the lights turn on for the audience, they turn off for the characters and for the rest of the play — the actors perform the show as though they are in a pitch black apartment that has blown a fuse.”

Hana Valle in “ ’dentity Crisis.” Jack Grace photo

” ‘Black Comedy’ is not just a style, it’s taken very literally in this show. Then, in classic farce fashion, and with the Peter Shaffer’s (the playwright) great characters, it becomes funnier and funnier,” Teichner recounted.

Me being unfamiliar with both pieces, Teichner summarized them.

” ‘Black Comedy’ is about a creative and broke budding young sculptor named Brindsley Miller (John Williams), who will be entertaining ‘the richest man in London,’ hoping he will be impressed and fund his work. His new, debutante girlfriend, Carol Melkett (Hana Valle), has convinced Brindsley to borrow his neighbor Harold’s fine furniture and pricey pieces while he is away on holiday in order to impress both the rich visitor and Carol’s stern father, Colonel Melkett (Lou Young), who Brindsley intends to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Others who show up are the very old-fashioned upstairs neighbor Miss Furnival (Carol Lem), who is afraid of the dark and Brindsley’s bohemian recent ex-girlfriend, Clea (Joanna Zamir), who causes all kinds of trouble,” she said.

After the intermission, nearly all the same actors take on entirely new roles in the second one-act.

” ‘ ‘dentity Crisis’ is a story about an adolescent girl who is going through the all-too-common identity crisis which we face at this age. It’s where crazy may seem normal, and normal, crazy. A good question to ask is ‘What is real?’ Family relations are an ongoing theme in this witty and fact-paced show. These topics can easily become a gut-wrenching drama — however, they happen to be extremely funny. And a little ‘off,’ “ Teichner explained.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph returns to Castle Theater in March with his latest endeavor, “/peh-LO-tah/: A Futbol-Framed Freedom Suite.” Photo courtesy the artist

I inquired if she had a favorite character.

“Brindsley is a favorite for sure. I always love the guy who gets into a tangled web that we get the pleasure to watch him unweave in front of our eyes. Brindsley is the Jack Tripper (from ‘Three’s Company’) of this show.”

I asked why alternative theater is essential to our expanding performing arts community.

“Theater comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, just like people. The more [that] audiences have an opportunity to be exposed to various styles and genres, the more likely they will be affected by it in a profound way and the more chances we have to get it right and serve its purpose in our community,” she replied.

• ProArts presents “Black Comedy” by Peter Shaffer, with a special presentation of Christopher Durang’s ” ‘dentity Crisis,” both directed by Lisa Teichner. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, opening Friday, March 1 and running through March 17 at the ProArts Playhouse at Azeka Place Makai in Kihei. Tickets are $26. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com.

This weekend

 Seabury Hall Performing Arts presents “Almost, Maine” by John Cariani, directed by Sally Sefton. A series of short vignettes happen at the exact same time on a midwinter’s night at around 9 on a Friday in the small town of “Almost, Maine,” as pathos, passion, humor and romance plays out in many variations.

• Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, opening Friday and running through March 2, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.seaburyhall.org.

Upcoming

The Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului presents Jacob Jonas the Company.

• Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $35 and $45, with half-price tickets for ages 12 and younger (plus applicable fees).

Jonas will also be conducting a master class at the MACC on Wednesday. There is a $10 registration fee for this class and students may register through the MACC website. To purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org. 

*****

Multi-talented theater artist and performer Marc Bamuthi Joseph returns to Maui in March with “/peh-LO-tah/: A Futbol-Framed Freedom Suite.” This original spoken-word and dance piece incorporates spoken-word poetry and soccer-inspired footwork. Joseph and four performers dribble and pass their way from the pickup games of rural Haiti to the mega stadiums of Rio de Janiero and Johannesburg, South Africa, parsing the social justice of soccer to the sounds of hip-hop and samba.

• Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $25 and $35, with half price tickets for ages 12 and younger (plus applicable fees). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org. 

*****

Maui OnStage presents Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.” When a junior pirate plans to mark his 21st birthday by breaking free from his indenture to the Pirate King, he discovers his birth date is actually Feb. 29. Because of this contractual loophole, the Pirate King will not set him free.

• Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, opening March 1 and running through March 17 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets are $20 to $40. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

*****

Tickets are on sale now for Maui OnStage’s ninth annual “Sneak Peek: 4900 Miles Off-Broadway,” an evening of behind-the-curtain peeks from the five productions planned in the 2019-20 Maui OnStage theater season. The local entertainers scheduled to appear at this year’s event are Jefferson Davis, Lia De Souza, John Galvan, Carlyn Leal, Leighanna Locke, Lin McEwan, Rick Scheideman, Francis Taua, Stephen Webb and many more. This all inclusive event includes cocktails and a silent auction at 5 p.m., buffet dinner and performance at 6 p.m., followed by desserts and after-party live music.

• Join Maui OnStage for “Sneak Peek: 4900 Miles Off-Broadway” from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 13 in the Waikapu Ballroom at the King Kamehameha Golf Course. Tickets are $150, or $1,350 for a table of 10. This is a 21 and older event. To purchase tickets, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.