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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, May 22, 2005

Two plays about life in the Islands

By Wanda Adams
Advertiser Staff Writer

"UNDER THE STAR OF GLADNESS" (I Lalo Hokule'a) and 'Ili 'Ili, Two Plays by Wayne Moniz, self-published, paper, $29.99

Maui playwright and teacher Wayne Moniz will be honored this week, along with novelist Rodney Morales, with a Cades Award for Literature. At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the two will receive their awards and give readings at Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St., Honolulu. The event is free and open to the public.

Morales is head of the creative writing program at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa and the well-known author of the 2002 Po'okela-nominated novel, "When the Shark Bites," the story of a family of Hawaiian activists dealing with the disillusionment that follows idealism, and with the contemporary realities of living local in Hawai'i.

Less well-known outside of theater circles is Wayne Moniz, whose plays deal with social and political issues of importance to Island people, drawing on historical figures and events to offer a better understanding of contemporary times.

Moniz, a teacher at Baldwin High School, has written and produced 13 plays. The book, first released in 1994, can be ordered from Borders Books & Music. He has written about the liberation of Kaho'olawe, the first Japanese Christians on Maui, the '60s-era "Poi Boys" radio disc jockeys and the life of Hana-born operatic tenor Tandy Kaohu MacKenzie (1892-1963). He has a master's degree in theater arts from the University of California-Los Angeles.

It's easier for most of us to watch a play than to read one because the format and conventions of the script get in the way of a smooth reading flow, and because, after all, a play is meant to be acted. Reading aloud can help, if you enjoy that (and won't drive the rest of your household crazy). But once you get past the initial awkwardness, the storytelling can take over.

In "Under the Star of Gladness," Moniz tells the story of three generations of Portuguese in Hawai'i, and in " 'Ili 'Ili," he imagines an activist, inspired by the ghost of Charles Lindbergh, saving Hana from overdevelopment. To my surprise, since I am much interested in the doings of the Portuguese here, I preferred " 'Ili 'Ili," which I think is the better-written of the two plays.

"Under the Star of Gladness" seemed a bit too loosely knit, jumping around in time and in its message. But I did enjoy the scenes of my native Maui; Moniz perfectly captures the small-town nature of Wailuku in the old days.