It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...
A good theatrical farce includes characters who find themselves in any number of improbable situations, who are exaggerated caricatures of themselves, and involves a good amount of slapstick. By this definition, the Hawai’i-stylized whodunit caper Who Killed Gilbert Botello? successfully captures the ideal of a farcical murder mystery—full of laughs, laughable characters, and any number of outlandish statements and ideas. Written by Garrick Paikai and conceived of as a performance tailored to the actors who romp through the play’s two acts, Who Killed Gilbert Botello? is “a twisted farce from the mind of someone who didn’t know how to write a play.”
Paikai’s observation on his intention behind the play raises some interesting questions. On its face, Who Killed Gilbert Botello? is a tropical murder mystery. There are some other themes not necessarily related to a murder mystery that distract from the primary focus of the work. Is Who Killed Gilbert Botello? simply a murder mystery and about finding the killer? Is it about homosexuality? Is it about the theatre community in Hawaii? Is it about infidelity? All of these themes come to light at some point during the performance, challenging the characters—but these themes do not contribute strongly to the development and growth of the characters onstage.
Set in 1998 during a Hawai’ian hurricane, Who Killed Gilbert Botello? transports the audience to the world of Detective Roy Rodger Kalauakekahuna III and his efforts to determine the killer amongst the several suspects present at a mansion on fictional Rabbit Island. From the first time Roy Rodger (Shawn Forsythe) steps onstage, a musical theme accompanies the fearless detective…cluing the audience into the notion that this is a play that won’t take itself too seriously. Forsythe talks about the mystery (and about himself) in the third person—injecting humor into the story and keeping the mood light. The characters regularly break the fourth wall of the stage to interact with the audience and to talk to the audience. Voice-overs and cheeky comments, both by the actors onstage and through their commentary of events in the third person, allow the audience to enjoy a humorously crafted mix of old-school murder mystery set in the context of the exotic tropical storm. While this often works to dramatic effect, how these techniques advance the story isn’t always clear.
Paikai wrote the script with his actors in mind—his attention to their abilities and to their sense of stagecraft is evident, and the cast obviously enjoyed the process of rehearsing and bringing Who Killed Gilbert Botello? to life onstage. Catch this romp of a theatrical tale while it is still showing at Kumu Kahua Theatre on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm, through September 24.
Watched on Thursday, 24 August at Kumu Kahua Theatre • Written by Garrick Paikai • Directed by R. Kevin Garcia Doyle