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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 16, 2009

'Da Mayah' is back again for more laughs

Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Special to The Advertiser


Kumu Kahua Theatre

8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through July 26




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It's always interesting to see a revival of a play by Lee Cataluna because they're never the same as the original.

The current staging of "Da Mayah" reprises much of last season's production at Kumu Kahua, but some cast changes give it a new tone particularly its reach back to the premiere 1998 production for local radio personality Sherry "Sista Sherry" Clifton in a central role.

If you've never seen "Da Mayah," you're in for a treat. If you've seen an earlier version, you'll find your favorite funny parts are still there.

The exaggerated character types still hang out in and around Jazzmin's Karaoke Bar and Washerette in Hilo, where a wash costs 50 cents, but a solo will run you a full dollar. And the limited action still swirls around Lester Perez, Hilo's first mayor.

Clifton's Sandralene is the mayor's long-suffering assistant and the brains behind his election. She also manages to keep him focused and ambulatory for public functions. She does it all with a worried and puzzled look, as if it were a troublesome duty that she's not sure how she acquired, but that she shoulders as if second-fiddle were as good as she deserves.

Eddy Gudoy's Mayor Perez is blissfully unaware of Sandralene's efforts and of most everyday reality and blossoms in an outrageous disco dance routine that visually explains the charm that might have made him electable.

Shawn Anthony Thomsen gives a new look to the supporting role of Dukie, a hulking underworld powerhouse with an exceedingly thin skin who hangs out at the washerette and is easily given to tears of disappointment.

Troy Apostol is back as Stanton the Manton, a fumbling hit man who carries a not-so-secret torch for Sandralene, and Karen Hironaga plays hostess as Jazzmin, working the audience and shifting furniture with Stu Hirayama as Big Al.

Two of the funniest off-stage characters get plenty of laughs by reference "Puka Head" Pacheco and Derrek Pang, a dangerous man-mountain monitored by a dedicated seismograph.

"Da Mayah's" audience popularity comes from its uninhibited character comedy and visual extremes like the scene where a frustrated Sandralene punches out the corpse at the wrong funeral.

Playwright Cataluna and director R. Kevin Doyle hold their audience with the enticing possibility that this kind of farce is only slightly removed from reality.