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Review: Kumu Kahua’s ‘Batu’ serves message with laughs


    Geph Albo Jr. (Jason) and Danielle Zalopany (Honey Girl) appear together in a scene from “Not One Batu.”


    Lalea‘e “Buffy” Kahalepuna Wong (Ma) shines in the similarly complex role of a woman whose love for her ohana is almost as strong as her love of ice — but not quite.


    Leilani Ramos (Sherrie) explains to Danielle Zalopany (Honey Girl) and Lalea‘e “Buffy” Kahalepuna Wong (Ma) the benefits of being Mormon.

When we first meet Honey Girl it looks like she has her life pretty much together. Yes, she’s selling crystal meth, aka batu, at Haleiwa Beach Park but she doesn’t use it herself; she’s been clean for a while now and intends to stay that way.

She’s tough, she’s smart, and she’s making the money she needs to provide for her children. Eight hours a day of asking “ … and would you like fries with that?” wouldn’t pay enough to cover her kids’ school expenses.

The only dark cloud on her horizon is that her girlfriend has broken up with her for what may be the last time. Honey Girl’s tutu told the girlfriend in rather crude terms that she doesn’t approve of lesbians.

Chicago-based playwright Hannah Ii-Epstein’s “Not One Batu,” a new play being presented by Kumu Kahua Theatre, offers a painfully realistic look at the social costs of the ice epidemic in Hawaii. It isn’t a lecture or “true confessions.” In fact, much of the story pulsates with local-style pidgin comedy.


Where: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 21; no show Feb. 7

Cost: $20

Info: 536-4441,

The characters include a comical crackhead who stumbles into the park after receiving an unfriendly lesson in surf etiquette from several members of Da Hui. There’s a comical young woman who insists she’s not an addict because she smokes only when she needs to, maybe three times a week. She tells Honey Girl that she’s become a Mormon so she can work at the Polynesian Cultural Center. There’s a comical, stereotypical “haole,” a Marine who amuses the locals with his good manners. The Marine comes to Honey Girl looking to score and eventually proposes a business deal.

We also meet her mother, Ma, an addict who will apparently be on the pipe for life, and a friendly neighborhood scavenger who is “only” homeless and doesn’t show any interest in drugs. There’s a very violent dude who may be trying to collect money he’s owed or who may be so high he’s forgotten that he’s already been paid. And there’s Honey Girl’s brother, known simply as Braddah, who has escaped the ice plague and thinks Honey Girl has too.

Amid the laughs and colorful give-and-take between various characters, Ii-Epstein slips in tales of their bad choices and the horrible consequences of those choices: families torn apart, torturous DIY detox experiences, overdoses, paranoia, sudden death while smoking meth, a woman selling her 7-year-old granddaughter to a pedophile in exchange for ice.

For all the laughs and local comedy along the way, Ii-Epstein’s message is crystal clear: Call it batu, crank, crack, ice or meth, whatever, this stuff is toxic and terminal.

From a performance standpoint, “Not One Batu” is a marvelous showcase for the acting talents of Kumu Kahua veteran Danielle Zalopany (Honey Girl). The script requires her to ricochet through a demanding range of contrasting emotions — sassy one moment, explosive another, violent, defiant, resigned, determined and, for a moment or two, almost romantic. Zalopany hits them all.

Lalea‘e “Buffy” Kahalepuna Wong (Ma) shines in the similarly complex role of a woman whose love for her ohana is almost as strong as her love of ice — but not quite. You’ll feel her pain.

Geph Albo Jr. (Jason) and Nahiku Passi (Max) are so convincing as ice heads that their performances may be too realistic for people who have experienced the ice epidemic within their own families.


“Not One Batu” by Hannah Ii-Epstein; directed by Harry Wong III; set design by Reb Beau Allen; lighting by BullDog; sound design by Royce Okasaki. Running time: 58 minutes. Contains profanity, ethnic slurs, smoking and simulated drug use

With: Geph Albo Jr. (Jason), William Ha‘o (Uncle Makana), Max Holtz (Tully), Nahiku Passi (Max), Leilani Ramos (Sherrie), Jeremy Reynon (Braddah), Lalea‘e “Buffy” Kahalepuna Wong (Ma) and Danielle Zalopany (Honey Girl).

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