A review by Mrs. Sorken
2 Pinkies up!
Did you ever wonder if you had a drinking problem and went to a 12-step program meeting back in the 90’s and kept your mouth closed while you listened to folks talk about their problems and you thought to yourself, “I don’t belong here, these people have real problems?” Now just imagine you went to one of these meetings and a guy who was sharing his riveting story about how he blacked out the night before, suddenly turned into a shark, or some kind of bug, and then a woman stood up and said, “CPS can’t believe that alligators can be good mothers.” Wouldn’t that freak you out? Of course, it would, and this is the premise for Demigods Anonymous by Noa Helela.
Director Harry Wong dresses his ensemble of 12 in no special costuming; gives them folding chairs and an empty stage and somehow they manage to create a world of mythical proportions. This is an epic, sci-fi, absurdly funny play where potentially serious issues like power, race, and sexual identity are toyed with often menacing zeal. Someone said,"The show is like watching a graphic novel." Caution! There were moments when Mrs. Sorkin actually feared for her life. She froze whenever a demigod looked at her or climbed over a chair to get to someone else behind her. This is one of the most physically challenging performance pieces she has ever seen in Hawai’i and there were moments that were truly impressive.
The pace of the play is very fast - at times a bit too frantic, and difficult to understand. Actors seemed to be in a race so as to see who could get to the end faster, and who could be the loudest. They forget for a moment to connect with each other, and the audience is left to feel alienated. Sometimes not enough attention is paid to diction, and some really funny lines are not understood, or they are run over by the sheer speed of it all. As Mrs. Sorken’s high school drama teacher used to say “Diction, Diction, Diction!" It ain’t funny if you can’t understand it. Also, in comedy, timing is everything. Wait for the laugh and allow the audience to enjoy the laughter. Demigods Anonymous is at its best when actors take their time with story-telling. One of the best bits in the play is when Maile Kapuaʻala’s Noe Lahana becomes possessed, her timing and physicality in transforming into a demigod is something that has not been so well achieved since Linda Blaire starred in “The Exorcist” back in the 70’s.
The use of what Harry Wong describes in his director's notes as “a blatant act of cultural appropriation - the black-clad Koken" was terrifically juxtaposed against the frantic pace and insane goings-on on stage. Each moved slowly with specific purpose and action. They could be doing something as simple as making a phone ring or as complicated as becoming part of a moving Loch Ness Monster da-kine demigod. From Mrs, Sorken’s understanding, traditional Koken are not supposed to be noticed by the audience, but these Koken are as equally important to the enjoyment of the play as the demigods.
This sterling ensemble cast is comprised of Max Kekai'oli Malmud, Nahiku Passi, Maile Kapua'ala, Kamalani Gapol, Max Holtz, Jaime Bradner, Kirk A. Lapilio Jr., Marty Wong, Spencer Moon, Lelea‘e"Buffy", Kahalepuna-Wong, Berkley Spivey, and Spencer McCarry. They are happily in sync with one another, even when there is mostly carnage on the floor.
Mrs Sorken has just two pinkies to give and so gives Demigods Anonymous two pinkies up. It’s a great date night for people under 40, and for people Mrs Sorkinʻs age and older, you might want to make sure the ole pace-maker is charged up, and remember to bring your oxygen tank. It’s a fun and bumpy ride.
Demigods Anonymous contains adult language and themes. The play runs: Thursday, Friday & Saturday 8pm: March 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31; April 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21. Sundays 2pm: March 25; April 8, 15, 22* (No show Easter Sunday, April 1)
*American Sign Language Interpretation upon request Following the performance on Friday, March 30th there will be a free talk story. These talk-stories are offered on the 2nd Friday of each production run and include an opportunity to gain behind the scenes insight from the director, cast, and playwright (when available). Tickets for performances can be purchased with a credit card by calling 536-4441, or by visiting the box office at 46 Merchant Street (corner of Bethel and Merchant Streets, downtown) between 11 am and 3 pm Monday through Friday. Tickets can also be purchased at KumuKahua.org.
Ticket prices are $5-$25.