June 22--KHON-TV news anchor Joe Moore is known in island theater for the breadth of his repertoire and for his unabashed love of performing. The top-rated newscaster has entertained Hawaii with one-man shows honoring Will Rogers and John Wayne, with dark historical dramas ("The Heydrich Covenant") and with light sitcom-style comedies such as his productions of "The Odd Couple" and "The Honeymooners" with longtime friend Pat Sajak.
Moore's current project, "Heaven Forbid!" -- an original script adapted by playwright Michael Aitkens from a hit 1990s English sitcom about two strong-willed residents of a retirement facility -- is an engaging comedy that touches on serious real-life issues.
The production is also a fundraiser for the Hawaii Theatre. It opened Thursday and runs through June 30.
Sajak aside, Moore has not always gotten a full performance from the national celebrities who've come to Hawaii to be his co-stars over the years -- one star did the entire show reading his lines with script in hand -- but this year's guest, Academy Award-winning Patty Duke, is 100 percent engaged from start to finish. Duke received an ovation from the opening-night audience as soon as they saw her. She earned it with her performance.
DUKE stars as Elizabeth Fredericks, 74, a witty misanthrope determined to live what remains of her life on her own terms. Moore plays her newest neighbor, Barney Winston, 75, a retired accountant for whom tall tales and silly behavior are an escape from dismal reality. Elizabeth and Barney become friends and then allies in a struggle to improve living conditions in the retirement facility and retain control over the overall quality of their lives.
Four core supporting players excel as two-dimensional sitcom characters. Paul Mitri (Richard) is a winning comic villain as the vain, ill-qualified manager of the facility who prioritizes higher profit margins over the welfare of the residents. Mitri has an excellent co-star in Stephanie Conching (Maggie), a veteran comedian, who plays the manager's assistant. Conching's portrayal of a woman hopelessly in love with her oblivious, unappreciative boss fuels a key subplot.
The facility manager's various schemes to increase profits by reducing amenities and the space per resident bring important real-life issues into the story. The scenes where Maggie talks to Elizabeth and Barney as if the two septuagenarians are children grate, too -- as they should!
DIRECTOR Rob Duval appears in the show as Wendell Winston, Barney's bland and ineffectual son. Wendell is an emotional cypher. Duval captures that. Tricia Marciel (Alice Winston) takes comic "evil" well over the top with her broad portrayal of Wendell's vicious and unstable wife.
Moore can be quite a clown when given an opportunity; a scene involving an impression of Mick Jagger singing "Jumping Jack Flash" was an early hit with the opening-night audience.
We'll note that Moore, who is in his mid-60s, looks closer to 60 than 75, despite the best efforts of Friston Ho'okano, the show's hair and makeup designer, but his energetic commitment to a good story soon negates that initial visual disconnect. It's fun to watch Moore having fun, and watching Duke hit the diverse facets in a well-written role is magic as well.
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