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The hard sell@AASU 

Masquers present The Big Kahuna

This play’s real name is Hospitality Suite.

At least that’s the name playwright Roger Rueff gave it. But then a Hollywood big shot named Kevin Spacey came along and optioned it for a film he was producing.

Somewhere along the way, the name was changed to The Big Kahuna. While the stage play may not be widely known, the film version with Spacey, Danny DeVito and Peter Facinelli is.

Rueff also wrote the screenplay. The Big Kahuna tells the story of two experienced salesmen and a young research engineer from an industrial lubricants firm in Chicago.

The three are in Wichita, Kansas, where they sit in a hospitality suite on the 26th floor of a Holiday Inn. They’re waiting to meet with a man, Dick Fuller, the CEO of a very large company, who just might save their company from ruin -- if they can sell him their product.

Jamie Busbin is directing an Armstrong Atlantic State University Masquers production of The Big Kahuna. “I saw it and fell in love with it,” she says.

It’s the CEO who’s the Big Kahuna -- or big catch -- of the title. But it’s the other three men who hold our interest.

Phil is in his mid-50s and has just been divorced. He’s questioning his work, indeed his entire purpose in life. Larry is younger and more energetic than Phil. Bob, who’s still in his 20s and very religious, has just been recruited from the company research department to represent the company’s technical expertise.

The three set up a party in their hospitality suite. While getting ready, Larry and Bob soon realize they have vast differences.

Later, when the party is over, Phil and Larry suddenly realize they never met Dick Fuller and become distraught. Eventually, they realize that the Big Kahuna did show up and that Bob talked to him at length.

However, Bob didn’t talk about industrial lubricants, he talked with Fuller about religion. Larry is infuriated, and sends Bob to find Fuller at another party.

As Phil and Larry wait for Bob, Phil’s questions about life and purpose come to the surface. When Bob returns and says he found Fuller, but all he talked with about was Jesus, everything comes to a head.

“It all breaks down into what is relevant,” Busbin says. “At the same time, it’s about trying to prioritize. For Bob, there is nothing higher than religion. For Larry, it’s about career. For Phil, life is what’s relevant, whether it’s religion or business or whatever. He realizes there are other things that are more important.”

The play lasts two hours. “It will definitely speak to a lot of people,” Busbin says. “A lot will identify with Bob, while a lot are career-driven and will identify with Larry. Still others have lived life and will identify with Phil.”

There are just three actors in the cast, including Larry Pupinger as Phil. “He’s a school teacher and he’s done productions for AASU and the Savannah Community Theatre,” Busbin says. “He’s well known around here.”

Brandon Lee plays Larry. “He’s a local playwright and actor,” Busbin says. Bob is played by James Griecco, a student at Armstrong.

Directing the show has been particularly challenging because it is theater-in-the-round, Busbin says. “The audience members are all around the actors,” she says. “I’ve never directed in the round.”

Audiences will experience the lives of three very different men. “It’s a comment on priorities in life,” Busbin says. “It’s very unique. At the end, this is a show that’s going to get you talking. It’s something people will want to discuss after.”

The Big Kahuna will be presented Oct. 25, 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 28 at 3 p.m. in Jenkins Theater. Tickets are $8. Call 927-5381 weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Linda Sickler

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