Live, local theater is back! After nearly a year and a half of pandemic-imposed darkness, three of Maui’s performing arts organizations are finally emerging from the void.
ProArts Playhouse in Kihei was first, triumphantly returning with a sold-out, seven-show run of “Damien” earlier this month. Starring Vinnie Linares and written by Aldyth Morris, the one-man, two-act play tells the poignant, inspirational story of Father Damien, now Saint Damien of Molokai. Over the past two decades, Vinnie has portrayed Damien hundreds of times at venues large and small, across the state and overseas, including Europe, New York City and Kalaupapa itself.
In announcing this 21st anniversary production, Vinnie wrote, “Given what has transpired this past year, I dedicate these performances to all those who have endured, suffered and survived the pandemic. It seems fitting that a play about lepers, outcasts, the afflicted and our indomitable spirit, returns as a symbol of life returning to some sense of normalcy.”
Next up, Maui OnStage presents “Our Favorite Things … A Celebration of Rodgers & Hammerstein” this weekend at the Historic Iao Theater. Led by Kalani Whitford (staging and choreography) and Bob Wills (musical director), more than a dozen of Maui’s most beloved community theater folk will present selections from classic musicals including “South Pacific,” “Oklahoma!” and “The Sound of Music,” accompanied by pianists Vania Jerome and Rose Johnson. “Our Favorite Things …” will be presented only three times: this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at mauionstage.com or by calling the Maui OnStage box office at 242-6969.
And then, after the “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” have cleared the Iao Theater stage, Maui Academy of Performing Arts will move into the grand old house for a three-weekend run of my current favorite thing — the culmination of MAPA’s Ahi series.
A decade ago, MAPA’s David Johnston commissioned Maui playwrights/actors Derek Nakagawa and Francis Taua to write and perform a local version of the “Greater Tuna” series. “Greater Tuna” is the first of four plays set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas and featuring two actors playing all 20 roles. When Derek and Francis presented “Lesser Ahi” at the old Steppingstone Theater, I loved the show so much, I saw it three times. Later, I literally jumped for joy when the boys invited me to participate in the sequel, “Fresher Ahi.”
Now, eight years later, we are finally presenting “Ahi Wrap.” Because it’s been so long since the debut, we’ve combined “Lesser” and “Fresher” with a third plotline, revamped and revised the series and split it into Parts 1 and 2.
Derek, Francis and I play a total of 18 characters in the extended ‘ohana of twin brothers Andrew and Anden Ahi. Whether you’re a recent arrival to the islands or kama’aina, you’re bound to recognize many, if not all, of these folks.
The publicity campaign likens the shows to “Rap’s Hawaii,” and certainly, the characters are as outrageous and hilarious as Reiplinger’s personas. But I think you’ll find that “Ahi Wrap” transcends quirkiness and caricature; there’s real heart here. At its core, Ahi is about ‘ohana and aloha.
Presented by MAPA in partnership with the County of Maui’s Office of Economic Development, The Makana Aloha Foundation and KAOI Radio Group, “Ahi Wrap” opens Aug. 13 for three weekends. For the schedule and tickets, go to mauiacademy.org or call MAPA at 244-8760.
The shows will also be filmed and presented online at a later date, but “Ahi Wrap” is best seen live, in person. Like the ProArts and Maui OnStage productions, COVID-19 precautions and public health guidelines will be strictly followed and enforced.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM and KEWE 97.9 FM/1240 AM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every other Wednesday. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.