A Gift for All Generations
Although not a traditional holiday play, A Plantation Celebration invokes the same warm feelings as the holiday spirit by touching on themes of tradition, family, and coming together. Former HTY Artistic Director Mark Lutwak returns to direct this collection of short works honoring the most definitive era of modern Hawaiian history, from seven notable Hawai‘i authors. All sixteen scenes, including songs, poems, and monologues, stand out on their own yet weave together perfectly, timing and energy remaining consistent throughout.
Lee Cataluna brings us the opening scene, in which Papa (Junior Tesoro) and grandson (Sean-Joseph Choo) break the fourth wall and invite us all to listen and “talk story.” “Things Plantation Kids Know,” a recurring scene featuring the entire ensemble, interspersed throughout the play, is also written by Cataluna, as well as the closing scene, an intimate moment between a mother and daughter sewing a patchwork quilt. Alvin Chan, with contributions from Lutwak and Choo, wrote the musical numbers. In “What You Get?,” Gary Pak gives insight into how the iconic Spam musubi might have been invented. Juliet Kono’s two poems, while more on the melancholy side, provided a nice contrast to the upbeat tone of the rest of the play.
My favorite pieces were all monologues: in “Bachi,” by Chan, Choo tells us the story of how he beat his childhood rival at peewee--animated projections by Chelsey Cannon help bring this story to life. In “Helping Mama,” by Bryan Wake, Christina Uyeno plays an adorable young girl who tells us all how she is going to work the cane fields for her mama this Christmas. Kono’s “Same Moon and Stars,” in which Maile Holck tells us the story of a Japanese picture bride, is by far the darkest of the scenes, but still ends with a silver lining. “Plantation Fire,” by Darrell Lum, is brought to life by Chan’s vivid solo performance, also featuring Cannon’s on-point projection work.
The HTY acting ensemble, with their unrivaled professionalism and energy, put on a flawless performance. While veteran members Tesoro, Holck, and Chan shine with their years of experience as always, I have enjoyed watching newer HTY members Uyeno and Choo bring new life and energy to more recent HTY plays, especially with Choo’s musical contributions.
A Plantation Celebration marks a bittersweet time, the end of an era, as we watch the last of our plantations close down, and what was reality for many of our parents, grandparents, and even some of us, becomes nothing more than stories and relics for our children and grandchildren. Through the art of storytelling, the era that defines the culture of Hawaii as it is today will live on forever, as long as these stories are shared. In fact, in an effort to further this dialogue, HTY is offering special promotional packages for seniors and children to attend this show together. Do not miss out on this opportunity. A Plantation Celebration is the perfect play to share with family this holiday season.