‘You and Me and the Space Between’ at HTY
This new play by Finegan Kruckemeyer takes on the issue of a home island becoming unlivable. It was inspired by thoughts of the islands of the Pacific that may soon be inundated by the sea due to climate change. What will happen to the residents who have to move to another place, learn another language, cope with people who may not always be welcoming?
Of course, this being a children’s play, the ending is a happy one, with the original islanders finding a way to hang onto their customs but also having the freedom to move away and then come back if they choose.
Kruckemeyer is from Tasmania, an island off the coast of “mainland” Australia, in a way that is somewhat similar to the Hawaiian islands being off the coast of mainland US. That similarity is what prompted his being commissioned to write this play for Hawaiian (and Tasmanian) youngsters, according to HTY’s artistic director Eric Johnson.
I found myself thinking of Hawaii’s high school graduates who go off to the mainland to college, finding themselves in a somewhat foreign culture; some stay there and some come back. However, I couldn’t help but think, too, of other people who find their homes unlivable, like the Syrian refugees, trying to find a place that will take them in, wishing they could go back home.
The play is a parable that really speaks to anyone that moves from one culture to another for whatever reason, even just from one neighborhood to another. However, I suspect most of the children in the audience viewed the play at a much more literal level.
The cast of five, led by Maile Holck playing the young girl who comes up with the solutions to the problems of her island, are the usual energetic and playful actors that engage the mixed age audiences at HTY. It’s hard to believe, but wonderful, that this is HTY’s 62nd season, helping children to learn about theatre and enjoy the experience. The theatre was filled with kids of all ages laughing along with parents and grandparents.
I loved Kruckemeyer’s earlier play, Suzette Who Set to Sea, produced in 2015 at HTY. You and Me and the Space Between was thought-provoking but without the clever shipboard set or the silly slapstick and crazy puns that kept the kids’ attention throughout Suzette. I had some qualms about the idea toward the beginning where it seems old people, when ready to die, just swim off into the sunset, maybe leaving a poem behind. They called it the “long breath out.” Whoa! Also, the depressing idea later on that trying to cope with change made the people tired all the time. Yes, I’m sure it’s true, but...
Still, You and Me had substantial comic invention of its own -- the island itself, not just its people, travels to a new home, bobbing like an apple, and the actors constantly draw images on small chalk boards, then cleverly arrange them, to help keep this story of the collision of two cultures visually lively. I liked their sand-colored overalls, too.
So kudos to the kiddos and the parents who brought them. Hopefully they were entertained and perhaps enlightened about the challenges of finding acceptance in a new place.