‘Uncle’s Regularly Scheduled Garage Party’ full of punchlines about ohana
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‘Uncle’s Regularly Scheduled Garage Party’ full of punchlines about ohana


    Eddy Gudoy, Maile Kapau‘ala, Zan Timtim, Tyler Tanabe and Wayne Paakaula star in “Uncle’s Regularly Scheduled Garage Party Is CANCELLED Tonight.”


“Uncle’s Regularly Scheduled Garage Party is CANCELLED Tonight,” a new comedy by Lee Cataluna at Kumu Kahua Theatre, is local to da max, only-in-Hawaii stuff. Typically and topically Cataluna, it’s a tsunami of gags and punchlines about ohana having a good time eating, drinking and making merry. Even if the party was called off.

The characters could come from your own clan, or you may recognize a few from across the street. The “types” are rooted in local lore, and by caricaturizing, Cataluna, a Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist, has created a microcosm of a world of somebodies you either know, recall or maybe would like to forget.

“Uncle’s Regularly Scheduled Garage Party Is CANCELLED Tonight”
Where: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through July 2

Tickets: $25 adult, $20 seniors, $10 students ($5 off Thursday performances)
Info: 536-4441 or kumukahua.org
Production notes: Co-directors, Harry Wong III and Wil Kahele; assistant director, Bronte Amoy; stage manager, T. Allen Matsumura; set and lighting designer, BullDog; lighting and sound operator, Joey Humel. Running time: About two hours. Note: Pidgin dialogue prevails throughout the play.

The play suggests that locals are party animals, and cancellation or not, the gang will gather, period.

The mystery, then, is part of the mastery here: Why was the party canceled? No one knows, but Aunty — sick and tired of the regularity — just might hold the clue.

Aunty (Kati Kuroda, effectively threatening, bellowing and intimidating) appears just before the end of the Act I, belittling the partiers, telling all to “Go home.” In Act II we learn what’s beneath that tough demeanor.

As co-directed by Harry Wong III and Wil Kahele, this outing by Cataluna puts community front and center, and the usual suspects emerge early. Act I is the set-up, with a deliberately slow pace and some predictability. Act II, which is both riotous and affecting, is snappier, offering a series of strokes of humanity, a panorama of memories and an it-takes-a-village posture to enable the pieces to fit and resolve the puzzle.

Aunty, with her bear-like growls and glaring stink-eye, forces the celebrants to dig deep and search their souls to share reflections as they try to appease and win her over.

Uncle (Wayne Pa‘akaula) and Cubby (Tyler Tanabe) are the congenial singers-guitarists and party hosts, serenading and kibitzing as spectators start to fill the theater. The garage set is a clutter of ice chests of all sizes and sorts, a few stools and an old nondescript couch. Dried mango branches festooned with Christmas lights hang overhead and there’s bunch of accumulating junk: a surfboard, bird house, bank storage boxes and more.

Partiers show up, surprised the event is canceled but continuing to haul in trays of food and snacks as they express astonishment. Of course, they stay, they eat, they sing. Like they own the place.

The gathering includes Zanita (Zan Timtim) and her twentysomething daughter Julene (Maile Kapua‘ala), who turn out to have had a difficult past (Zanita was a single mom who thought she had an ugly baby); a gruff cop JJ (Reb Beau Allen), who lies about appearing on “Hawaii Five-O,” and his cute and more-mature-than-dad son 3J (Kainoa Kelly, whose mom is the playwright), and a married couple, Ed (Jim Aina) and Lillian (Karen Kuioka Hironaga), who utter thoughts and sentiments simultaneously, with their reflections becoming tall tales as the evening progresses.

Delbert (Eddy Gudoy) has a confessional monologue late in the show that epitomizes the need for connections — to a community, a family, an activity. This isn’t a comic moment; after the guffaws, it’s therapy, expressing the notion that need, indeed, comes in different forms.

Cataluna has a keen ear and sharp eye for folkloric details, creating names, acknowledging locations and pinpointing mundane situations to fill her stage canvas with credible color. But because Kumu Kahua does not use microphones on its actors, the dialogue sometimes is lost because of which way the actors are facing in delivery.

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