The Contemporary Pacific 14.2 (2002) 523-525
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Love 3 Times
Love 3 Times. Play written by Vilsoni Hereniko. Directed by Megan Evans. Kumu Kahua Theater, Honolulu, Hawai'i, 17 May to 17 June 2001.
Playwright Vilsoni Hereniko generally allows himself more aesthetic distance than he does in Love 3 Times, performed in May-June 2001 at Kumu Kahua Theater in Honolulu under the capable direction of Megan Evans. Like Hereniko, the play's central character is a forty-something Rotuman playwright-professor in Honolulu who is increasingly drawn toward cinema (a trajectory with multiple implications). The trials of Tomasi Amanako therefore feel like a "counter-life" through whom, with forthrightness and wry self-consciousness, Hereniko dramatizes a range of issues. These center around the complexities of inhabiting western institutions without betraying Pacific roots, and the obstacles to intimacy with those who do not share those roots.
Such concerns inform the play's opening scene, where Tomasi's wife Cindy videotapes him, his sister La, and his fourteen-year-old son from a previous marriage, Duncan, as they pay respects to his departed father, Hapati. The camera records Tomasi instructing his son Duncan in commemorative customs, and carrying the heavy tombstone for his father's grave. (As with many works that begin with funerals, such asWiti Ihimaera's Tangi, the burying of an elder relative suggests the passing away of something larger.) The delayed return to Rotuma for the ceremony, twenty years after Hapati's death, provides an occasion for Tomasi to come to terms with the three central "loves" in his life. These loves are both personal and representative of values and temporalities: Hapati, who in a sense represents Rotuman tradition; Cindy, a film producer who suggests at one level the bustling presentism of the film world; and the child Duncan, whose upbringing in materialistic London sets him in a situation common to the next generation of diasporic Islanders of mixed [End Page 523] ancestry. Set in Rotuma and then Honolulu, the play proceeds through scenes contrived to generate and then resolve pressures Tomasi faces.
The autobiographical feel and emotional economy of Love 3 Times intensify as the play's main relational plots revolve around Tomasi. All three accuse him of abandoning or neglecting them, and this pressures him to articulate (and harmonize) his feelings toward each. Hapati, a hungry ghost who follows his son like a guilty conscience from Rotuma to Honolulu (where his marvelings at and coming to terms with contemporary American culture provide fine comic moments), reproaches Tomasi for not perpetuating the culture through Duncan. Duncan paradoxically accuses Tomasi of loving Rotuman culture more than him, and of not equipping the boy to participate in that culture. Cindy resents Tomasi's preoccupation with his father and son, and wishes he'd "stop feeling guilty" and "start paying attention" to her emotional wants.
By having the audience look over the characters' shoulders as they conspicuously document these personal relations with a digital camera, Love 3 Times thematizes authorial self-consciousness and the paradoxical senses in which the camera creates both distance and intimacy. The omnipresent camera also functions as a suggestive image into which the audience might read any number of meanings. At one level, the displacement of writing (or even live performance) by the camera, suggests new opportunities for representation, and an altered relation between artist and audience (perhaps a wider audience, given less context). As a tool of representation, its power has in a sense been seized back from all those anthropologists prying into island "life ways" (satirized in Last Virgin in Paradise), and can now be used for any number of ventures, from commercial films to home movies.
And yet for all its webs of relation and probings, the "picture" that emerges from Love 3 Times seems rather simplistic at times.For instance, in accentuating the distance between the disrespectful, materialistic, distrustful values of Duncan's London upbringing, and the values of traditional island culture, Love 3 Times turns to an unworkable schematicism, uncharacteristic of Hereniko's previous plays (and critical articles). Tomasi's sister La seems an...