‘Worthmores’ are worth a visit

Nearly a decade in development, Tom Althouse’s manners comedy, “The Worthmores (or the Maid Unmade),” will premiere will full pomp, plumage and pageantry next weekend at the Historic Iao Theater. Althouse intends that “The Worthmores” be perceived as a play written in the past but pleasing to audiences of the present and future. In this comedy of errors, things are not always what they seem and society is turned on its ear.

Written in an 18th century style, “The Worthmores” captures the flavor of the era with its speech, poetry and turn of phrases. Years of touring internationally in Shakespeare productions, combined with working as an actor in Colonial Williamsburg, gave Althouse an affinity for the 18th century, its language, manners and clothing. Over the past four years, he has assembled a period-authentic costume bank (handmade by Yuana Garvin) that would rival a Hollywood production.

I asked the local author how the project began. “If I have seen it before, I will not touch the idea. I let what moves me, and comes as new, to be the inspiration that drives the work,” he said. “The audience is kept in mind as intelligent and deserving of the highest caliber which can be reached. I discovered a missing story that would have been quite comical to audiences of the time, a gentleman who loves to clean. Other popular pieces (of the era) dealt with gentlemen with other problems, such as being too good natured they gave their money and estate away, or were such tender husbands, they could not love any mistress.”

Presented as a staged reading on three occasions since 2006, the original script was three hours long. Two hundred years ago, theater audiences expected plays to exceed three and even four hours, but 21st century taste prefers two-hours or less. After years of trimming and streamlining the script, “The Worthmores” now times out just under two hours. Althouse describes the editing as “a monumental task.” “Scenes seemed to fall apart in initial tries as if I was trying to reduce a living organism.” Rather than trimming, Althouse chose to remove subplots and scenes. “I finally tracked where energy dropped off and determined to cut entire scenes. Other scenes were reworked so that any cuts came from reworking the scenes to be improved by shorter but stronger interplay. This second solution proved most successful and could be likened to reworking the clay of the material rather than cutting with a scalpel.”

Set just outside London in 1770, this farce resembles the Albert Finney film, “Tom Jones,” with a little of Voltaire’s “Candide” and Monty Python-style comedy thrown in. The plot, part romantic comedy as well, is riddled with impostors, dandies, fake magistrates, stimulated housewives, impassioned young lovers and characters you love to hate, who bumble through a conundrum of miscommunication, creating a topsy-turvy world where nothing is sacred and the servants rule the roost.

Althouse even connected the era to Hawaii in our conversation. “This is the world of Captain Cook and the first Western culture Hawaiians would have encountered.” “The Worthmores” debunks and exposes class-based society through absurdity. By following their hearts and not society’s rules, the characters of “The Worthmores” fare the better.

An 18th century gentleman would never dirty his hands in labor, but Mr. Rivers (Steven Dascoulias) loves to clean. He also married a scrub maid (Kristi Scott), whom he deeply loves and now must pass off as high born. Anne (Brett Wulfson), his daughter, also wishes to marry one she truly loves. Bragabit (Althouse) loves her but lacks social skills. The villainous Colonel Vainlove (Ricky Jones), the more proper suitor, is only interested in Anne’s money. Young George (Jeff Brackett), the adopted son of Mr. Rivers, is in love with Molly (Hoku Pavao Jones), who he thinks is a maid. And Moppet (Sharleen Lagatutta) is a well-bred lady in love with a stable boy.

The all-star Maui cast also includes Kepa Cabanilla-Aricayos, Dale Button, David Negaard, John Messersmith, Joshua Franco, Joel Agnew, Jim Oxborrow, Justin House, Jonathan Severance, Mannasseh Robidoux and David Pisoni. If this British genre is not your cup of tea, one reason to attend will be the stage debut of Mayor Alan Arakawa (in full powdered wig) on April 4 and Kathy Collins making the cameo appearance on April 13.

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THIS WEEKEND

* Catch a “Sneak Peek” of the 2014-15 season at Maui OnStage’s annual evening of music, cocktails, dinner and performances from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Aloha Aku, a Kihei oceanfront estate. Guests will be the first to learn of the new season and be treated to dramatic, comedic and musical performances from the five shows. Entertainers include Jerry Eiting, Lina Krueger, Charles Cook, Bob Wills, Ricky Jones, Dale Button, Jason Wolf, Felicia Chernicki, Zeb Merhing, Marley Merhing, Ashlyn Aniban, Erin Kowalick, David Negaard, Lee Garrow, Beth Garrow and Steven Dascoulias. Tickets are $125 per person; call 244-8680 or visit www.mauionstage.com.

* Join the Maui Academy of Performing Arts for “Shaken & Stirred: A Murder Mystery Party,” an evening of intrigue, glamour, gourmet cuisine and entertainment, featuring “James Blonde 008.” Participate in the unfolding mystery by playing a role; or sit back and enjoy the party. Cabaret performances will feature Lia Krieg, Lina Krueger, Gary Shin-Leavitt and Lily Marceau Telford. Proceeds will support MAPA’s educational performing arts programs. The event runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday at the King Kamehameha Golf Club in Wailuku. Tickets are $150 per person; call 244-8760 or visit www.mauiacademy.org.

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UPCOMING

* Children of all ages will enjoy “James and the Giant Peach,” based on the book by Roald Dahl, dramatized by Richard R. George, with original music by David Delaney. Join James Henry Trotter as he escapes his zany and wicked aunts to embark on a journey in the Giant Peach with his insect friends. This all-youth production boasts songs that will keep you humming long after you leave. Performances are at 2 p.m. April 12 and 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. April 19 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children. Call 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com.

* “God of Carnage,” by Yasmina Reza and directed by Jonathan Lehman, is an edgy adult comedy-drama starring Kisha Milling, Jennifer Rose, William Makozak and Don Carlson. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, April 25 through May 11, at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $22, with kamaaina discounts available for Hawaii residents. Call 463-6550.