‘Aloha’ Complex but Enjoyable

by Holly Brown

If you’ve only seen the posters advertising the play around campus, you can tell that “Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls” by Naomi Iizuka is a hectic experience. Featuring a cast of friends, lovers and acquaintances in settings ranging from the wilds of Borneo to the concrete jungle of New York City, this play explores the difficulty of finding one’s place in a chaotic world.

In this scene sophomores Cory Collins and Trista Taboada portray Derek and Wendy respectively. The two characters are discussing the tattoo on Derek’s wrist.

Act I is set in New York and among other things features the dissolution of a marriage, the robbery of a reptile store, a dog turning into a man and a man developing breasts. While I respect Iizuka’s attempt to express life’s instability through her presentation of situation and dialogue, I found this act almost too chaotic to follow, presenting more loose ends than I believed could be pulled together before the end of the show.

However, Act II stepped up to the challenge. Though its setting ranges from Hawaii to Alaska to inner Borneo, and though much of the action still has an absurdist flair — including one character inexplicably turning into a komodo dragon — this portion of the show does manage to tie together what initially seemed to be a hopeless mess of plotlines, allowing its characters to achieve some meaningful form of development and at last unambiguously presenting its primary theme.

Even when the material had me feeling most dubious, the work of the cast was consistently great throughout. The group consisted of a nice mix of old favorites and newcomers to the Transylvania stage, and all stayed true to their characters and gave a convincing performance.

My only complaint would be that Vivian, Derek and Wendy were too similar to roles that junior Annie Barbera, sophomore Cory Collins, and sophomore Trista Taboada, respectively, have taken on in the past. I would personally like to see these actors be cast in a greater variety of roles in the future, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the performance that each of them gave.

Though the quality of the acting was impressive, I would have to say that my favorite aspect of the play was its fantastic, versatile setting. The show was performed in the round with fairly simplistic scenery; the terrain of the room was created by the presence of movable, circular boxes, allowing fast changes of place, and a hinged ramp was manipulated at times to represent background scenery or a bed. Additionally, much of the visual aspects required to make the play believable took the form of props brought in during scene changes or hanging from the ceiling as “decorations” until called into use.

However, my favorite part of the set did happen to be its most complex component: a gigantic beach chair that accessed the stage via a fireman’s pole. This part of the set not only added to the absurdist feel of the play and acted as a second level which proved useful in some of the situations created by the plot, but the pole also created a route of easy access between this level and the stage.

The lighting was also very effective at setting the mood of a scene or drawing the audience’s attention. While I saw the play on Friday night — a performance which I was later informed had more than its fair share of technical fiascos — the lighting crew worked diligently to make the situation work out as smoothly as possible, and the cast seemed virtually unaffected. I’m not the most observant viewer when it comes to technical aspects, but I’m quite sure that even the average viewer wouldn’t have noticed any problems unless he or she heard about it from a friend on the tech crew after the fact, so I was certainly impressed with the grace used in handling those situations.

Though I had my doubts at first, “Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls” eventually convinced me that it was well worth the small investments it required in time and money. If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s still time! The last three showings will take place today, Friday and Saturday in Little Theater at 7:30 pm.


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