The Bard Of KauaiKauai Community Players will perform local playwright Richard Peck’s Prodigal Father — it’s humorous while also exploring ‘people’s capacity to express their love’
Prepare to be pleasantly entertained by Prodigal Father, a Kauai Community Players production that runs this weekend and next at Puhi Theatrical Warehouse.
Considering playwright Richard Peck’s personality, it’s no wonder the show is so charming.
“The writing is fast, funny and witty,” says Jeff Demma, one of five multi-talented cast members.
In the story, a wife abandons her husband (played by Demma) and baby boy. The husband is a sailor, who gives his child to his sister to raise while he’s out at sea, visiting infrequently while at port. This eventually frustrates the son so much that, at 16, he tells his father to get out of his life. A decade later, the father returns in hope of making amends with his grown-up son (played by Chris Alderete).
The play is a comedy, but it also manages to send a touching message, which Peck credits to his relationship with his own father, who never said he loved him.
“I know he did,” notes Peck. “I had a good childhood — no trauma, nothing like that. But some men don’t talk about those things — you show it, you don’t say it.”
However, his father, Earl, finally expressed his true emotions after seeing Prodigal Father in Philadelphia, in which Peck happened to be playing the part of the father.
“It was the only time I saw my dad cry,” says Peck, “and so I’m fond of the play.”
Demma appreciates its humor, as well as the sensitive nature of Prodigal Father.
“It’s a story about people’s capacity to express their love,” he says.
The actors are excited to be in the play, and feel fortunate to work with the author.
“We have the eyes here to tell us, ‘Yes, that’s right’ or ‘No, look for something else,'” explains Alderete.
Peck has been penning and directing stories for decades. The Wisconsin native, who was commissioned as one of the youngest officers/pilots in the U.S. Marine Corps when he was just 19 years old, always has been drawn to theatre, and caught the acting bug as a child. He didn’t write his first play or direct, however, until later in life when, in his 30s, he was asked to direct a play. He agreed, but only on the condition that it would be one he wrote.
“They swallowed kind of hard and said OK,” recalls Peck, a retired English professor and university administrator.
He loved the experience so much that, once he started writing (Peck also has written many novels) and directing, acting went to the back burner.
“It’s hard learning those lines. I never enjoyed that part of it,” admits Peck, “It’s much more fun to see people do the story and I get to pull the strings.”
Peck enjoys the theatre community, especially on Kauai. Before deciding to live here part time, he often would visit and make sure to attend local productions while he was in town.
“I was impressed,” he says. “There’s a lot of talent for a small island like this.”
It was his wife Donna who suggested he give one of his plays to the community to perform.
“I always obey my wife,” he jokes. The island’s theatrical community is lucky he does, and Peck feels fortunate to have his work performed by such skilled artists. He encourages anyone who wants to experience creativity at its finest to come see the show.
“Because you can’t surf in the dark,” he quips.
The show is on stage Thursday, Friday and Saturday (April 9, 10 and 11) at 7 p.m., and Sunday (April 12) at 4 p.m., with additional performances April 16, 17 and 18 at the same times.
Visit kauaicommunityplayers.org to purchase tickets and for more information, or call (800) 838-3006.