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A Brilliant Shadow

A Brilliant Shadow

A Walking Shadow, written and directed by Taurie Kinoshita at Paliku Theatre, is stunning.  Written in the style of Dennis Carroll’s Massie / Kahahawai (a docudrama with expressionistic elements), the play follows Myles Fukunaga played with immense skill by Alaka’i Cunningham.  The Fukunaga case was one of the most renowned in local Hawaii history.  Since the case involves so many topics—racism, poverty, education, immigration, among many others—Kinoshita focused her efforts on agency (cultural and mental) as she states in the director’s note. 

Even if I had not read the note, the point of the play would have been obvious: the character of Fukunaga is constantly moved by others (guards, detectives, the voices in his head played by real actors); he does not move freely till after his death.  The well-chosen projections included Chapter titles and one of the first lines of dialogue to get emphasis is: ‘he has never been allowed to write the story of his own life’ (my paraphrase). 

This line happens in the first scene, in a letter spoken by the Dr. Myrick character. One of the final lines of the play, also emphasized by the actors to highlight its importance, was “this is what I wrote” spoken by the character of Myles himself.  The docudrama conceit of the play therefore lends itself extremely well to a clever narrative arc found by the playwright: that of Myles never telling his own story, instead his story is told by everyone else—never Myles himself, until the very end.

I saw the Thursday showing of this Windward Community College class performance and Cunningham’s Myles went from timid and scared child, to erratic and tortured young man, to coldly blank—almost possessed.  He played the narrative arc of his character with immense variety and the audience sympathized with him, even in the darkest moments of the play.

Spencer McCarrey and Chase Jusseaume played eerily hypnotic Kings of Shadows (characters who embodied Myles’ mental illness).  Their acting choices were startling, appropriate and highly nuanced.  All three actors: Cunningham, Jusseuame and Mccarrey deserve special applause for the skill with which they delivered difficult choral-vocal work (overlapping on a single word to underscore even the punctuation within the text.)  Additionally they spent the play mirroring each others’ movements, while facing the audience, with tremendous skill.

Other powerful performances include Noah Schuetz, Juvy Lucina, Daphnei Hussein, Raymond Thompson, Mikie Davidson (who all played multiple characters with breath-taking commitment and variety: each character appeared and sounded markedly different.)  The actors filled the space of Paliku Theatre with their voices and commanded the stage. Moody music, phenomenally effective lighting and period props by Averi Murakami and Kalehua Zuttermeister completed the almost thread-bare set.  Hussein had an especially powerful scene with Cunningham, as his sister visiting him in jail; Schuetz detective was passionate and detailed; McCarrey’s portrayal of Myles in the murder scene was profoundly startling yet appropriate; Lucina provided great comic relief as a waiter and tenderness as Myles’ mother; Thompson’s Detective White led an impressive interrogation scene involving choral work with no dropped cues.   The acting in this play was easily professional-level work (the day I saw it.)  

This play tackled immensely important issues and was one of the most memorable and haunting pieces of theatre I have personally seen.  

Written by Brendan Kobayashi.

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