Ensemble Does Justice to Infamous Case
A Timely Trial
As diverse as Honolulu is, with it’s unique blend of international ethnicities, it’s difficult to fathom that racism could gain a foothold. Yet in 1931, five young, local boys were accused of the rape of a young, white military wife, Thalia Massie. Most of us have heard of the Massie/Kahahawai case: how Thalia Massie was found badly beaten, claiming to have been kidnapped and raped by a group of young local men. Among the five accused was Joseph Kahahawai. The jury could not reach a conclusion and so a mistrial was declared. However during the retrial it was discovered that Kahahawai had been kidnapped and murdered by Thomas Massie, Thalia’s husband. Aiding Massie were two other naval officers and Thalia’s mother, Grace Hubbard Bell Fortescue. The jury found the four guilty of manslaughter which carried a sentence of ten years of hard labor. However, bowing to Congressional pressure, Governor Lawrence Judd whittled their sentence down to one hour which was carried out in the Governor’s office at ‘Iolani Palace.
Compiled and written by Dr. Dennis Carroll, Massie/Kahahawai was first produced and staged at Kumu Kahua Theatre in January of 2004 and was directed by Harry Wong III. The script is a collection of newspaper articles, police interviews, and reports of those involved in what was known throughout the country as The Massie Affair.
Taurie Kinoshita directs this latest production at the Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College. The impact of what transpired in 1931 is almost as effective today, ninety years later. Frighteningly, it is also as timely.
The cast takes the audience through a timeline of the case. From watching a group of friends playing football on the street to the funeral and kanikau of Joseph Kahahawai, then finally to the release of four murderers, having done almost no time for the heinous crime they committed.
While this production is clearly an ensemble piece, there are stand outs worth mentioning. Likeke Nakachi-Issacs as Joseph Kahahawai commands the stage with not only a formidable presence but also a strong voice that articulates throughout the theatre. In fact, the entire cast are without body mics. Kinoshita challenges her actors to use the power of their own vocals without the aide of electronic amplification…and it works. Jessica Jusseaume lends Thalia the youth and naïveté of a young bride and socialite. Michael Wall gives Massie a sense of urgency with an alpha male bravado. Cassidy Patmont as Grace Hubbard Bell Fortescue, Thalia’s mother, is a domineering, no nonsense woman of obvious pedigree colored with undertones of entitlement and racism. Micah Kalanihonohoumakou Souza and Chase Jusseaume, play a myriad of ensemble characters but stand out as narrators/reporters quoting headlines and interviews of the victims and the guilty in 1930s radio era style.
Costumes by Iris Kim are appropriate to the era and blend the different cultures and classes of an earlier Honolulu. Michelle Umipeg adds style with hair and make-up, giving the women a vintage polish. Lighting by Hope Laidlaw lights the large Paliku stage with patterns and textures, and gives mood and focus to other scenes as required.
Massie/Kahahawai plays Wednesday October 25 through Saturday October 28 at the Paliku Theatre at Windward Community Theatre. $5.00 for Students/Military/Seniors and $10.00 for general audience. Call 808-235-7515 for more information.