A Tip of the Hat
Great theatre can happen anywhere. The proof is at the Ong King Arts Center on Fort Street Mall. Five superb actors are bringing The Motherfucker with the Hat to life. With a minimal set, not much for lighting, and a production budget of next to nothing, they’ve created a show that will pull you in, beat you up, and then (if you do theatre yourself) let you out saying “Wow… I wish I could do that.”
Danielle Zalopany and Jason Quinn as Veronica and Jackie have a mutual destruction pact of a relationship. Jackie is trying to get off drugs and alcohol, but Veronica is still an active user – a formula for disaster. Quantae Love as Ralph, Jackie’s AA sponsor, has his own set of issues. He’s off alcohol, but sex and manipulation can be addictive drugs too. Wendy Pearson as Victoria, Ralph’s wife, is a not-quite-innocent victim. Her scene as a neglected wife, wanting love but willing to settle for sex, is one of many moments that are brief but powerful. Kava Jones, as Cousin Julio, provides some comic relief but when his history comes out, the tears do too.
Every one of the five is a skillful actor, doing some of his or her best work. No one is “acting” – while they’re onstage they are Jackie, Veronica, Ralph, Victoria and Cousin Julio. Even more importantly, this isn’t five solo performances – every relationship is real, complicated, and evolving from the beginning to the end. The script, by Stephen Adly Guirgis, gives them plenty to work with, and director Troy M. Apostol has wisely chosen to focus on the way that the relationships tie the characters together and often trip them up.
The only negatives are minor. The space is hard to find – a sign that’s more visible from Fort Street Mall would help. It may have just been an opening-weekend issue, but a few light cues felt like they were a little late – something changed in the scene, and then a second or two later the lights changed.
The intimate space and in-the-round staging put the action right in your face, literally as well as figuratively. EPOCH, (Empowering People Of Color Hawaii) is a new theatre organization and this is EPOCH’s first production. If they can continue at this level, it will be a major contribution to theatre in Hawaii.
Written by Ron Heller