Artistically speaking, Pro Arts has a good problem on its hands. They have hit an important fork in the road. For the most part Maui theater companies consistently deliver above average, B-quality theater. The problem Pro Arts faces is that they are on the verge of claiming A-quality regional theater, on a pace to equal the kind of theater one will find in Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco and Seattle.
Their encore production of "Driving Miss Daisy" is exceptional, but if Pro Arts intends to raise their own bar, two things need happen. One, the public needs to fill up their houses in order to generate the funds needed to smooth out the edges, and two, the public can thereby expect Pro Arts to add all those extra little elements that separate Maui from Berkeley Rep and Steppenwolf.
Talent wise "Driving Miss Daisy" is a wonderfully enjoyable, heartwarming achievement. Although I've said this before, it stands repeating, the performances of Joyce Romero as Miss Daisy Werthan and J. Marc Mance as Hoke Coleburn will forever be associated, on Maui, with these two masterful actors. The two are so good that (with a larger budget, better set, better lighting, better costumes and all those little extras I referred to) they could drop into a major market production and receive the exact same praise.
Joyce Romero and J. Marc?Mance reprise their roles as Miss Daisy Werthan and Hoke Coleburn is Pro Arts encore production of ‘Driving Miss Daisy.”
JACK GRACE photo
"Daisy's" second time around the block, director/producer Jonathan Lehman, was able to address some of these details, but until the public begins packing the house to see important Pulitzer Prize winning plays like "Daisy" and "Doubt," Pro Arts will remain at a financial impasse.
Although "Daisy" is mostly about the relationship that blossoms between Hoke and Miss Daisy, Jonathan Yudis' portrayal on her son, Boolie Werthan was exceptional as well. Yudis' accent work is impeccable as well as his conveyance of a mama's boy and civic leader all wrapped up in one.
The formula for why some shows better than others is age plus experience. It's fair to suggest that between the cast of three, the experience is in the neighborhood of a century. There are many emotional and power-charged "wow" moments in "Daisy," but if you aren't especially moved when Hoke feeds Miss Daisy her pumpkin pie, well, there's something wrong with you.
There may be some that would suggest Mance's Hoke is offensive to a 21st century audience. I believe the better way to look at it is that the past is offensive and Mance is simply holding up a mirror. Perhaps the real question should be how did Hoke behave when he wasn't around white people, and why isn't that scene in the play?
As for Romero, how many ways or times can you praise the Grand Dame of Maui theater? Miss Daisy is a part that she was born to play, but a truly dedicated actor will always make you think that no matter the role.
If I could wave a magic wand, Pro Arts would have better lighting, a larger stage, the ability to light vignettes in multiple locations of the building, more places for the actors to enter from and the financial comfort to reinvent the room, keeping the quaint little playhouse fresh and different with each production.
Kid's productions and lavish musicals are wonderful, but sometimes you need a little protein and substance. Between Maui OnStage, MAPA, and Pro Arts, this type of play will disappear if the general public doesn't support them in the same manner Maui supports productions like "Grease." "Daisy," like "Doubt" and "Macbeth" is a cross your fingers production and both Pro Arts and MAPA deserve to be rewarded for rolling the dice this month.
* "Driving Miss Daisy" continues though Nov. 18. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. Reserved seat tickets are $20 for adults with $15 Kama'aina discount nights (with valid Hawaii ID) on Thursdays November 8 and 15. "Daisy" is appropriate for all ages and runs 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. For reservations or more information call 463-6550 or visit proartspacific.com.
Also this weekend
Don't miss the final weekend of MAPA's "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare, directed by David C. Johnston in Steppingstone Playhouse at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center through Nov. 11. The impressive local cast includes Will Makozak in the title role, Beth Williams as Lady Macbeth, Brian Connolly, Noel Overbay Smit, Rick Case, Kristi Scott, Hoku Pavao Jones, Jett Batoon and Sharleen Lagattuta. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 seniors and students. For reservations or more information call 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org.
Maui Preparatory Academy Lower School Drama Club presents "The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley JR," directed by Vania Jerome. Performances are at 6:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday at the Pueo Playhouse (under the tent) on the Maui Prep Campus, 4910 Honoapiilani Highway in Naplili. Tickets are $5 for children, $7 adult general, $10 VIP reserved. For tickets or more information call 665-9966 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The will be no ONO! this month at the Iao Theater. Maui OnStage's ONO! will return on Dec. 10 with a 97th birthday tribute concert to Frank Sinatra, in celebration of his Iao Theater history. Performers will include Paul Janes Brown, Jerry Caires, Steven Dascoulias, Alison Mikes Holmes, Francis Tau'a, Bob Wills and many more. For more information about this free performance series visit mauionstage.com.
Seabury Hall Middle School presents Lewis Carroll's classic "Alice in Wonderland," under the direction of Marsha Kelly, Nov. 16 through 18. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday in the performing arts studio at Seabury Hall in Makawao. Tickets may be reserved by calling 573-1257.
MAPA presents a staged reading of "8," a new play Dustin Lance Black about California's Proposition 8 and the fight for gay marriage, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17 in the Steppingstone Playhouse at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. Black is the Academy-Award winning screenwriter of "Milk." Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 seniors and students. For reservations or more information call 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org.
The Maui Academy of Performing Arts invites actors ages 18 to adult to audition for the musical "Man of La Mancha," Saturday in ten-minute time slots beginning at noon in Steppingstone Playhouse at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. Inspired by Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote," "Man of La Mancha" was written by Dale Wasserman with lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh. MAPA Executive and Artistic Director David C. Johnston will direct the show, with musical direction by Marti Kluth. Rehearsals will begin in late November with weekend performances, Feb. 1 through 24. Actors should bring a headshot and resume, prepare a short monologue and 32 bars of a song, providing your own sheet music in your key. An accompanist will be provided. To schedule a ten minute audition slot, please contact MAPA Production Coordinator Tina Kailiponi at email@example.com or call 244-8760 x224.
Nov. 9 is the deadline to submit one-act plays for consideration to the Third Annual Maui Fringe Theater Festival at no charge. If chosen, the three-day theater marathon will take place Feb. 1 through 3 at the Historic Iao Theater. New additions to this year's festival include one night only rentals and Kama'aina discounts. To submit online, or for more details and pricing, visit mauionstage.com.