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Review: ‘The Beginning of the Ed’

Labs are by definition a place where experiments are conducted. Some experiments are successful. Others are not. The University of Hawaii-Manoa’s Late Night Theatre season opener, “The Beginning of the Ed,” is one of the latter.

W.M. Balou’s script is described as a “mash up” of “Oedipus the King” and “Romeo and Juliet” and includes characters from both tragedies. It’s a concept that worked quite well for MAD magazine and Rocky & Bullwinkle’s “Fractured Fairy Tales” decades ago but there is a tremendous difference between being funny and Trying-To-Be-Funny. Silliness is no substitute for good writing — silliness prevails here.

Ed Ipus (Jenn Thomas) eventually discovers that his wife is also his mother but the discovery is neither tragic nor comic. Julie, a “valley girl”-type also played by Thomas, dies several times, as do Romeo (D’neka Patten) and Capulet (Jillian Blakkan-Struss), all with the same lack of entertainment value.

Director Chris McGahan’s best idea is the scene where two characters fight while the unidentified sound man plays a recording of what sounds like an original “fight song.” There’s also a quick sight gag in the scene where James Schirmer is playing a shepherd and pulls out a blackboard with sheep drawn on it. There is also an insider line about how “nobody reads the director’s notes” in a playbill.

That’s as good as it gets.

McGahan and almost every member of the cast has done better work in previous UH productions, but then they all had better material to work with.

Spoof these classic plays? Parody them? Satirize them? It’s been done many times before and done much better than this.

“The Beginning of the Ed”
Where: Earle Ernst Lab Theatre, UH-Manoa
When: 11 p.m. tonight (9/17) and tomorrow (9/18)
Cost: $10 general admission ($8 UH faculty/staff, seniors, military and students; $UHM students w/current student ID)
Info: 956-7655 or www.hawaii.edu/kennedy

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