Tuesday, January 23, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 23, 2001

'Pidg Latin' underscores double moral

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek

Kaimi Dilingham has a problem. He needs two years of language credit to graduate from the University of Hawaii and he’s already flunked Spanish, French and Hawaiian.

Somehow he ends up studying Latin, only to find that - while he understands the language - he is unable to translate it into standard English, only into pidgin. The situation soft-sells a double moral: pidgin needn’t equate to low intelligence, and it offers unique expressive qualities.

"Pidg Latin," now playing at Kumu Kahua Theatre in a joint production with the Hawaii Theatre for Youth, draws a great deal of charm from the boy’s predicament. The new play was first written by Yokanaan Kearns as a short story, then adapted for the stage as a long monologue, spiced with rapid-fire short appearances by a wide range of supporting characters.

Pidg Latin’ and How Kitty Got Her Pidgin Back’

8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 18

Student performances of "Pidg Latin," 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 4:30 p.m. Saturdays, through Feb. 18, (include free pizza and soda)

Kumu Kahua Theatre

$10-$15 (discounts available) 536-4441 (839-9885 for student performances)

Louie Hung creates the central role with a great deal of unaffected warmth and personal appeal and director Harry Wong III keeps the action broad and the comedy light and delightful.

Once we grasp the premise and accept Kearns credibility in finding parallels between classic texts and contemporary Hawaiian pidgin, the production lets us relax and enjoy the characters. While Hung easily carries the weight of the script, the rest of the cast give it plenty of bounce.

Sheilah Sealey neatly plays two opposite types as the shrewish Ma Dilingham and the beautiful, but stuck-up, young woman who inspires Kaimi to write love poetry.

BullDog does triple duty as an overstressed Catholic priest, a laid-back academic counselor and a twittering language professor.

Joe Dodd’s set is built from chalkboards, used by the cast to sketch in backdrops, character names and snatches of dialogue.

The second half of this double bill is Kearns’ short morality satire, "How Kitty Got Her Pidgin Back." Here, Sealey plays a central character who loses her ability to speak pidgin when knocked on her head by a surfboard. It’s the night of the school prom, and Kitty has only four hours to regain her local speech or risk losing her date with the team’s quarterback.

This opens up some wild action, with Bulldog playing double roles in the same scene - Kitty’s tough-talking policeman dad and her sputtering Auntie Kehaulani. Hung reappears as the class geek to help her shake this strange vernacular disease and learn what it feels like to be shunned for failing to fit in.

There’s a good message in both of the shows that should play equally well in the Kumu Kahua venue and to high school audiences as "Pidg Latin" tours across the state.

Joseph T. Rozmiarek is The Advertiser’s drama critic.

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