HTY puts on a fun show for kids
By JOSEPH T. ROZMIAREK
Special to The Advertiser
The annual Honolulu Theatre for Youth play for preschoolers is a charming and goofy little romp about making and keeping friends.
Created and directed by Daniel A. Kelin II, "Keiko and Louie" is a collaborative creation with an improvisational feel aimed at ages 2 through 5. Without much of a script, it engages its young audience by repetition, participation and a willingness to be driven by its "creative inner toddler."
All kids — even those who don't yet read — love to pretend and to act out stories. Kelin's goal in creating the piece was to avoid pandering and to create something that would be important to them. And what could be more important than having friends?
The protagonists are a couple of charmers learning social skills at day care.
Louie, played by Jordan T. Savusa, is a fascinating mixture of contrasts. Take Savusa's hulking linebacker physique, give him a trailing nap blanket and the frightened squeak of a preschool newbie, and you've created a compelling character.
Keiko, played by Michelle Y. Hurtubise, is an outgoing Miss Congeniality, twisting her pigtails, tugging at her smock, and spontaneously collecting new friends.
The HTY company actors have live theater and improvisational comedy credentials and an obvious willingness to explore their preschool side. That combination works well at sustaining focus for an otherwise wiggly audience.
They get things going with a long hide-and-seek prologue and neatly drill the kids in a physical refocusing exercise that comes in handy whenever things get a little too loose later on.
They also encourage the kids to chant along in repeating the simple phrases that set up and build on the minimal story line:
"Keiko ties her shoe.
"Keiko ties her shoe and hops around the room.
"Keiko ties her shoe and hops around the room and falls down on her kitty cat."
Out of this come the vignettes that develop the friendship thesis. Keiko and Louie meet, they play, and they have their first argument when Keiko promotes a new toy to the position of "best, best friend" ahead of Louie.
The tragedy is momentarily real, but not long lasting.
When the prepared stories end, the kids are invited to shout out ideas for new ones, testing the cast's improvisational skills. Lastly, Savusa and Hurtubise process the experience to nail down the show's main points and conduct an oral customer satisfaction survey.
Results indicate the kids learned something and had a great time.