Into Willie Sabel’s vast and detailed set enter a cast of rippled sweatshirts and oversized shoulder-pads, thanks to Dusty Behner’s sense of color and history, and Lisa Ponce de Leon’s especially-80s hairstyles. A few of the bunch even manage to hold-their-own against the largeness that is the setting of Dividing the Estate, the newest show to hit Manoa Valley Theatre.
Remember, it’s not just Texas, it’s Texas in the 80s.
The plot is simple enough: in this two-act family affair, we see the culmination of many generations’ worth of soap-opera-style entitlement. But the money’s run nearly dry and the only way to get more is to divide the estate–selling the house and the land–which the matriarch refuses to consider. One sister and her son are against the divide, despite the fact they are currently living off the little fat they have left, and the other sister and her family are desperately for the divide, in order to continue their lavish lifestyle. Then there’s the brother. The flip-flopper, and he switches sides as quickly as he finishes drinks.
Written by Horton Foote in 1989, Dividing the Estate is a period piece, so far removed is 1987 Texas from 2012 Honolulu. In short, this play doesn’t necessarily reflect the sensibilities of a local audience, but that shouldn’t matter. The Gordon family has what the current generation might call “white people problems,” a fact emphasized by the inclusion in the cast of the “colored” help. The Taiwanese, or possibly Vietnamese, or maybe Koreans who seem to be moving in on the area are also mentioned as objects of wonder.
Jo Pruden, a local theatre favorite, has the role of matriarch Stella Gordon. While there is little genuine connection between Pruden’s Stella and the members of her family, her relationship with Doug, the old house servant–portrayed with depth and humor by Gregory Scott Harris–who’s been around the estate since before Stella was born, provides something for the audience to invest in and care about, making the laughs, when they come, all the more satisfying.