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‘Strangers on a train’

A single toast ... a double murder

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 29 at ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $26. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com. Ann Marie Wilder (left, in photo) and Geronimo Sun tangle in the psychological thriller, “Strangers on a Train.” PETER SWANZY photo

With one reluctant toast, two murders become inevitable and a chilling conflict is set in motion in ProArts’ gripping production of “Strangers on a Train” at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei.

Jefferson Davis, as burgeoning architect Guy Haines, and Geronimo Sun, as wealthy playboy Charles Bruno, captivate in this well-staged set-up scene in which both actors artfully present the first layer of their multifaceted characters. As the spellbinding plot plays out, we observe the complexities of Guy and Bruno’s lives accented by equally impressive performances from the entire “Train” cast.

Ann Marie Wilder, as Bruno’s unhinged and fragile mother Elsie, gives a beguiling interpretation worthy of an Actor’s Equity production. Her Elsie warrants sympathy and is initially likable, but Wilder’s exemplary performance is even more intricate than the offerings of her male co-leads.

Elsie is a three-act Shakespearian tragedy who waivers between enabler and victim, occasionally at the same time, in nearly every scene in which she appears. Bruno and Elsie display an unnatural and intimate bond, one that he doesn’t share with his father (unseen in the play). In fact, Bruno believes that he would be better off if his father was dead.

He shares these thoughts with Guy, who has his own similar situation with his soon-to-be ex-wife Miriam (also unseen), a wife that won’t seem to exit his life quietly.

Jefferson Davis (left) and Sun contemplate the ultimate sin. PETER SWANZY photo

Though perceived by Guy as a hypothetical drunken conversation with a stranger on a train, Bruno is deadly serious when he suggests that they swap murders.

In another outstanding performance, Megan Caccamo plays Guy’s loving girlfriend, Anne, who patiently awaits the start of a new successful life with him once the divorce has been finalized. The only truly blameless and noble heroine in the play, Caccamo charms and evolves into the most resolute character in the story even as the ugly truth slowly unfolds. In contrast, Sun frighteningly reveals more and more aspects of his twisted and devious persona, while Davis offers an unflappable facade masking subtle edginess. When Bruno completes his half of the arrangement, Davis slowly shows signs of cracking and is reduced to a vulnerable shell of his former self.

Act 2 plays out like a ticking time bomb, not just for Guy and Bruno, but for all of the lives they touch. Bruno, whose master plan was to baffle police with no motive, unsolvable murders, is now a dangerous fixture in Anne and Guy’s lives.

Complementary quality performances by Kiegan Otterson as Robert and Michael Enovijas as Frank, Guy’s fellow architects, heighten tension. Davis continues to tragically display Guy’s fall from grace, now challenged with a drinking disorder and a necessary web of lies to keep work associates at bay. Like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” both co-leads cannot escape from their self-built prisons, serving as self-torturers, not unlike Jean-Paul Sarte’s “No Exit,” in spite of the possibility that they’ve both gotten away with the perfect crime.

The final conflict is the astute private detective work of David Belew as Arthur Gerard. Belew offers another rooted and compelling performance, yet cleverly comes across as a slight villain.

Davis (left) has the floor as Megan Caccamo listens. PETER SWANZY photo

For most of the play, we have looked in on the troubled lives of Bruno, Elsie, Guy and Anne. The audience, a credit to Tina Kailiponi’s wonderful direction, has now grown empathetic for this damned and flawed foursome. As Detective Gerard closes in on the truth, we cringe with each revealing mistake that might further doom all.

Adding to this well-done production is its simplistic and functional set by Kailiponi and Keith Welch. It does not distract nor draw attention, and quick-moving scene changes allow for the focus to remain squarely upon the acting performances throughout the show. Wonderful 1950’s period costumes by Kathleen Gregory also enhances every scene, as does the dramatic lighting designed by Ricky Pavao Jones.

The intimacy, intrigue and quality performances of “Strangers on a Train” are not only a perfect fit for ProArts, but also a perfect start for its season.

ProArts continues “Strangers on a Train,” by Craig Warner, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, directed by Tina Kailiponi. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through September 29 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.

Next week

Elisha Cullins stars as Benjamin Braddock in Maui OnStage’s Hawaii premier of “The Graduate,” opening Sept. 27 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. BRETT WULFSON photo

Maui OnStage presents the Hawaii premier of “The Graduate” adapted by Terry Johnson, based on the novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry, directed by Rick Scheideman.

This stage adaptation of ‘The Graduate,’ based on the novel and the iconic 1967 film, is a bitterly hilarious dark comedy full of rapid-fire dialogue between fascinating and horrifying characters. This play explores family dysfunction, parental expectations, crumbling marriages and the naive, yet disillusioned dichotomy of youth against the shiny backdrop of affluent Southern California in the 1960s.

Benjamin Braddock (Elisha Cullins) is a confused young man. Having spent four years achieving a brilliant scholastic record, upon graduation he finds himself adrift, uncertain about his future, disconnected from his purpose and increasingly alienated from the upper-class, suburban “plastic” world of his parents.

Fighting panic and boredom, he is deeply conflicted but ultimately willing when Mrs. Robinson (Marsi Smith), the unhappily married, alcoholic and dangerously charismatic wife of his father’s business partner, tempts him into an affair. Benjamin’s tenuous existence of lazy days and stolen nights falls apart when he falls in love with Elaine (Julia Schwentor), Mrs. Robinson’s upbeat, optimistic daughter.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 27 through Oct. 13 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets range from $20 to $40. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

upcoming

Catch comedian Todd Barry in performance at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Write, director and actor Todd Barry has appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brian,” “The Sarah Silverman Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Louie” and in several Comedy Central and Netflix standup comedy specials.

Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 5 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $35. To purchase tickets visit www.eventbrite.com/e/comedian-todd-barry-live-at-pro-arts-tickets.

*****

Join the Maui Academy of Performing Arts for their 31st annual Garden Party on the shady lawn of the Yokouchi Family Estate in Wailuku from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6. Enjoy a chef’s festival with gourmet cuisine from Maui’s top restaurants, fine wines, live music, silent and live auctions including artwork that is created on-site by well-known Maui artists. Proceeds benefit MAPA’s educational performing arts programs including their December production of “The Nutcracker” at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

All-inclusive tickets for this 21-and-over event are $85. For more information or to purchase tickets or tables of ten, visit www.mauiacademy.org.