Sharing Mana‘o

Despite the fact that the island’s population has tripled over the past five decades, Maui is still, in many ways, small town-style. Fifty years ago, as a young teen, I didn’t fully appreciate that. But now, even though I’ve continued to embrace the conveniences of progress, I’m grateful for the old-fashioned traditions that survive. We call them “local values” or “island style,” daily manifestations of the aloha spirit.

The pandemic may have put a damper on some of our beloved customs like freely given hugs and large gatherings for any and every occasion, but we’ve retained much of our sense of community. Masks and mandates can’t stifle aloha or ‘ohana.

If I’m sounding even more sentimental than usual, it’s partly due to the optimism I always feel at the start of a new year. Mostly, though, it’s because I’ve been immersed in a microcosmic mirror of island life.

You may have seen or heard publicity for “Ahi Wrap,” a local comedy (actually, two plays) opening Jan. 28 at the historic Iao Theater. Likened to “Rap’s Hawaii” or Andy Bumatai’s “All in the ‘Ohana,” the Ahi shows feature three actors playing 16 outrageous characters. But “Ahi Wrap” is much more than pidgin jokes and local humor; it’s about the strength of ‘ohana. And even Disney knows, ‘ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.

“Ahi Wrap” is the culmination of a trilogy presented by the Maui Academy of Performing Arts. Ten years ago, Maui boys Derek Nakagawa and Francis Taua wrote and starred in “Lesser Ahi,” playing twins Andrew and Anden Ahi as well as eight other quirky characters: Mommy and Daddy, Tutu, know-it-all cousin Bernadette and her stoner brother Jesse, Andrew’s girlfriend Min and her Uncle Chin, and hapless Englishman Monty.

Having seen “Lesser Ahi” three times, I was ecstatic when, a year later, the guys invited me to join them for the sequel, “Fresher Ahi.” I even cut the hip-length hair I’d sported since my teens, in order to facilitate quick wig changes for the roles of villainess Ilona, Auntie Chin, Anden’s wife Melinda, Min’s sidekick Jeanette, drag queen Jody, and — my favorite — bad boy Roland “Bang Bang” Macadangdang.

Various roadblocks delayed the production of the third Ahi show, but finally, here we are. The eight-year gap was unintentional, but it does serve as yet another testament to the enduring spirit of ‘ohana, as well as MAPA’s dedication to our community.

Because it’s been so long since the Ahis were last seen, we thought it best to reprise “Lesser Ahi” and “Fresher Ahi” before revealing the new chapter in the ‘ohana’s story. Instead of presenting three separate shows, we combined them into one ongoing saga, but with so much to tell, we had to split it into two parts. “Ahi Wrap” (Part One) will be presented Jan. 28-30 and on Feb. 11 and 12; “Ahi Wrap” (Part Two) will be on Feb. 4, 5, 6, 12 and 13.

The complete show schedule, COVID-19 protocols and tickets are available on the MAPA website, mauiacademy.org. Proof of full vaccination is required for admittance, and audience members must remain masked indoors as well as socially distanced.

As you might imagine, playing so many characters at once requires a lot of rehearsal and role immersion. So, if you happen to see me in traffic, don’t be alarmed by my facial contortions or my animated conversation with myself. And don’t worry about me being distracted; we’re all good drivers. Well, maybe not Auntie Chin.

* 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 kcmaui913@gmail.com.


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