‘Black Comedy’ explodes with color while ‘Willy Wonka’ goes for gold

Joanna Zamir (from left), John Williams, Hana Valle, Loe Young and Carol Lem appear in a scene from the one-act play “Black Comedy” at ProArts Playhouse. Jack Grace photo

There is no theater on Maui that pushes the artistic envelope more so than ProArts Playhouse in Kihei, and its current dual one-acts “Black Comedy” and ” ‘dentity Crisis” is the most intrepid offering to date.

The second-act play ” ‘dentity Crisis” by Christopher Durang, will be a tough pill to swallow for some. The script is not difficult to follow, but it will leave more than a few audience members scratching their heads and contemplating the objective of the 20-minute play.

This show, teeming with energy and daring performances, places its audience in the mind of a young woman battling psychosocial conflict and mass confusion. What you are witnessing is the world that Jane (Hana Valle), an adolescent suicide survivor, sees. Valle offers a stellar performance in the role as her confusion swells with John Williams playing her father, brother, grandfather and a French count all at the same time. Faith Harding as her ridiculous mother Edith Fromage, the supposed inventor of cheese, goes for broke with a larger-than-life portrayal. For the audience it is Edith and the rest of the cast of characters that appears to be insane, not Jane.

“Black Comedy” by Peter Shaffer, is considerably more conventional. Williams gives an inspired performance as Brindsley, a struggling London sculptor, littered with pratfalls and ideal physical comedy. He and fiance Carol (Valle) are hosting an important dinner party in hopes of selling his work to a wealthy German art collector (Neil Sullivan). Lou Young plays Carol’s father, a disapproving and domineering colonel. Moments before he arrives, the master fuse blows in the building plunging the gathering in to pitch darkness. The clever twist of “Black Comedy” is the audience can see nothing, only hearing the actor’s words for the first 15-minutes of the play. When the fuse blows, the stage lights come up and now it is the cast who appear to be blind, as they struggle to maneuver through the apartment while frequently bumping into furniture.

Carol Lem plays the teetotaling neighbor Miss Furnival, who accidently begins guzzling Scotch, but it is Kalani Whitford who practically steals the farce as Brindsley’s tactful yet finicky friend and neighbor. Later Brindsley’s ex-girlfriend Clea (Joanna Zamir) creeps into the apartment unnoticed, heightening the disastrous evening of impediments. Zamir and Williams are hilarious together as he hides her away in the bedroom where ill-timed hanky-panky ensues. When Schuppanzigh (Vinnie Linares), a German electrician, arrives to fix the fuse all believe him to be the art collector, further intensifying the classic farce format and unleashing even more laughs.

Amber Seelig (left) and Lauren Ige perform in Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka” at Baldwin Auditorium on the Baldwin High School campus. Jack Grace photo

What makes both of these surreal one-act comedies unique, ironically, is that as in real-life, things aren’t rectified in the style of most mainstream plays, making for an innovative and avant-garde night of theater.

* ProArts continues “Black Comedy”, with a special presentation of ” ‘dentity Crisis,” directed by Lisa Teichner.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through March 17 at the ProArts Playhouse. Tickets are $26. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com.

Also this week

At Baldwin High School, Roald Dahl’s delicious fantasy adventure, “Willy Wonka,” a musical adaptation of the 1971 Gene Wilder film, continues with music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and

Anthony Newley, directed by Linda Carnevale, choreographed by Dejah Padon and under the musical direction of Tana Larson.

Promising to be scrumdidilyumptious, Generation X parents should recall many childhood memories with catchy songs like “The Candyman,” “(I’ve Got A) Golden Ticket,” “I Want It Now!,” “Oompa Loompa” and “Pure Imagination.” Dahl’s beloved story follows the enigmatic candy manufacturer’s contest of hiding golden tickets in candy bars and five lucky children — Augustus Gloop, Mike Teevee, Violet Beauregarde, Varuca Salt and, of course, the dutiful Charlie Bucket — win the chance to tour Wonka’s famous chocolate factory.

* Presented by Baldwin Theatre Guild, Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka” takes the stage at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through March 17 at the Baldwin Auditorium on the Baldwin High School campus. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $7 for students ages 12 to 17 and $5 for keiki ages 11 and under. Tickets are available at the box office 45 minutes before show time.

Next week

Maui OnStage’s Youth Theater presents “Robin Hood and His Merry Men,” by Richard Gremel, directed by Tina Kailiponi. This comic retelling of the story includes thumb wars, missed cues and a slow motion fight.

* Upcoming performances are 11 a.m. March 9 & 16 and 1 p.m. March 10 & 17. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children. To purchase tickets, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.