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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 29, 2002

'Kapakahi' evokes 'been there, done that' feel

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Drama Critic

Lisa Matsumoto may be the first Hawai'i writer to act on that play-on-words epigram, "Once you've seen all of her plays, you've seen one of them."

Playwright Lisa Matsumoto plays Da Wicked Queen to perfection in "Once Upon One Kapakahi Time" at Hawai'i Theatre.

Advertiser library photo • July 2002

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'Once Upon One Kapakahi Time'

7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, noon and 4 p.m. Sunday

Hawaii Theatre



Her new production at Hawai'i Theatre, "Once Upon One Kapakahi Time," is new only in the sense that the characters and songs from several of her earlier works have been rearranged under this title.

One wishes to say "condensed" from her earlier works, but after 35 scenes and three hours of playing time, it feels that she has left out very little.

Matsumoto made a stunning debut with her first play, "Once Upon One Time," 11 years ago at the University of Hawai'i. The show overlaid pidgin dialogue on a fractured mosaic of classic fairy tales featuring distinctly local characters. Directed by Tamara Hunt and filled with a fresh cast of college students, it burst on the scene like a skyrocket and attracted immediate attention.

She quickly followed up with two more pieces to create a trilogy, adding "Once Upon One Noddah Time" and "Happily Eva Afta." The sequels repeated the same formula, reprised some of the characters, and attracted a loyal following of actors and audiences that kept showing up for each new offering.

Fractured as they were, each show still had a traceable story line with a beginning, middle and end. Each was fresh, energetic and fun. But while not exact carbon copies, they became difficult to distinguish from one another. One began to hope that Matsumoto could apply her talent to something new.

With this production, one senses that she has played out the creative line on the trilogy and that the show stays afloat mainly from cast energy and nostalgia. At heart it's a musical review of 21 songs performed by a throng of 62 performers. Truly all mixed up, to find and follow a story line one would need a map, a compass, and an infrared sensor. It's simply easier to let the songs by Roslyn Catracchia and Paul Palmore wash over you, and look for familiar faces in the crowd on stage.

Despite the numbing weight of the show, the opening-night audience obviously continues to love the material, and the cast — again with Hunt directing — keeps it fine-tuned and running like a top.

Matsumoto is prominent on stage as Da Wicked Queen, creating an imposing presence that is 50 percent hairpiece and 50 percent red robes, shot through with drop-dead attitude. Patrick Fujimoto appears again as her not-so-loyal sidekick, Da Mean Mongoose, and the two pair up for a pleasing, short dance number.

After that, naming names is impossible to do without leaving out somebody's favorite.

Devon Nekoba is narrator, Kala'i Stern is the square Prince Charmin and Bryan Yamasaki is the prince turned into a gecko by the curse of the Hagemogi Fairy. Eunice Fukunaga, Margaret Jones and Zan DePeralta pack a wallop as the dancing fairy godmothers, and Stephanie Sanchez reprises two roles as Tutu and Isabel from Matsumoto's "The Princess and the Iso Peanut."

Alec Shimizu is the spaced-out One Noddah Hunta, Ron Encarnacion doubles as the Shoemaker and Da Mean Stepmotherr (sic), and Dion Donahue milks every line as the Royal Attendant Pierre.

The set is formidable, the costumes are bright and the choreography is well-rehearsed. And while the cast pumps out energy, there are audibility problems that arise from too many high-pitched and shrieking voices.

If you loved the earlier shows, you'll love this one. But it might make you wonder if it is possible to have too much of a good thing.