I didn’t want it to end!
SUNY New Paltz’s Theatre Arts Department’s first mainstage production of the semester is showing right now! Tony Speciale, an award-winning playwright and assistant professor in the theatre department, is the director of Naomi Iizuka’s “Aloha Say The Pretty Girls.” The play is running from Oct. 20 to Oct. 29 at Parker Theatre located right on campus by Starbucks. Tickets for the upcoming showtimes are available to purchase online here.
According to the Theatre Arts Department’s website, the play is about “A person moves to write the great American novel. A person moves to Alaska to start a new life. Babies, wild dogs, Komodo dragons, and hula dancers abound in this play about finding your tribe in a world gone haywire.” They were absolutely right about that.
I attended a matinee showing on Oct. 22 at 2 p.m. I was seated at the right side of the theater towards the end of the row. That’s a perfect angle for stage viewing. The lighting was dim. A jazz band of SUNY New Paltz students played some tunes before the show, and I was nursing a Starbucks Strawberry Açaí Refresher. I was ready. When the clock hit two, the lights darkened and the spotlights shone on the stage. It was time.
Without spoiling too much, Act I was set in Brooklyn, New York and the scenes captured the chaoticness of New York City. Since I’m from there myself, although Queens instead of Brooklyn, the vibe felt quite accurate. Act I established many characters and their relationships and separated them right before Act II so they could meet new people before reuniting.
Also, in Act II, you’re in two places at once: Hawaii and Alaska. Both places tend to be more peaceful than New York City, but the characters still manage to bring a lot of energy to both places. Eventually, both worlds merge. New friendships and old friendships come together with a bit of the chaos from Act I, perfectly blended together. Some characters I never expected to interact had arguably even stronger dynamics.
Many characters shared two common problems: grappling with change and existentialism. They all move away from New York City in order to start new lives, but those echoing problems follow them to Alaska and Hawaii. By the end of the play, most of the characters have their problems resolved, or as resolved as they can be. Everyone is content with their lives, finally.
The actors’ brilliant performances combined with the multi-colored lighting, ambient noises (some of which were made by the actors themselves), the costumes, the props and the sets really allowed me to be immersed in the world of Aloha.
Iizuka’s writing is incredible and the actors captured her essence extremely well with their range. I laughed out loud at so many scenes and smiled to myself the whole time. There were so many clever one-liners, physical comedy, and more!
My favorite characters were Myrna, a schoolteacher who served as a mentor figure, played by Genesis Ramos-Bravo, Vivian, someone who has change thrust upon her and is trying to grapple with it all while keeping it together, played by Abbe Schulties, and Martin, a dog trapped in a human’s body, played by Sebastian Rodriguez. But I loved every single character and all of the actors had great performances.
This script is a work of art and you have to see it to believe it. You are definitely going to get something out of watching this play yourself and I cannot recommend it enough. If you like existential crises, joke on top of joke on top of joke and traveling across the country, this play is for you.
I give “Aloha, Say The Pretty Girls” a 10 out of 10 Hawaiian snow globes. Go check it out and support New Paltz’s Theatre Arts Department. You will not regret it.
And if you want to go more deeply behind the scenes, in addition to the above-linked profiles, we have more on actors Mya Espinosa, who plays Wendy, Ryen Weston who plays Joy, and Simon Woods, who plays Derek. And you can take a deeper dive into the plot of “Aloha,” with the background on the play, here.