Looks like he got more than he bargained for, because the one-act plays in the trilogy all dealt with rather heavy stuff: guilt, responsibility, war, family secrets, sad childhoods, date rape, materialism, the pain and necessity of looking back. When it comes to family, there's really no escaping raw, intense emotions.
"After several years, it was exciting to watch plays once again. I love the intimacy theater affords to the audience and the actors. I'm also thrilled about the outlandish stories that only theater dares to tell. I definitely want some more," writes Girard. Here's his take on the outlandish tales he saw.
On J. Dennis Teodosio's "Bagahe:" The first piece was set mostly in the US and explored the relationship of a mother and her son, who were at odds over the Nanay's plan to bury her husband in the Philippines. The two characters were engaged in an endless argument, mainly showing clash of values between two people from different generations. The story's nothing new: the haughty son who made it big and now imposes on his equally impertinent mom. (It does not help that the performance of the actor portraying the son was robotic at best.) Several times I nearly dozed off. To keep me awake, I eavesdropped on my seatmates who were incessantly gasping over the long, gray hair of the actress.
On Lani Montreal's "Looking for Darna:" The second piece, "Looking for Darna," took a peek at the life of three generations of Filipinas (the lola, mom, and daughter) living in the US. The grandmother was fast slipping into dementia and she had recurring nightmares of her harrowing experience with rape during the war. The rebellious daughter, on the other hand, was undergoing some sexual awakening of her own and was raped (or was she?) by her boyfriend in the process. (Meanwhile, the mom shrieks the entire time.) Although they did not exactly know how their experiences mirror each other, the lola and the granddaughter (who each gave engaging performances, btw), created an extraordinary bond between them. I loved this piece over the others for its originality and inventiveness.
On Debbie Ann Tan's "Teroristang Labandera:" This one is about a Filipino-Chinese family whose lives seem to be dominated by a chain-smoking labandera. It's like an inverted war of the classes, albeit rowdier, which was actually the best way to perk up the audience after a couple of relatively depressing pieces. I did not like all the squealing at first (add to that the fact that I don't like comedies to begin with). But I realized that the story's more about the materialism that gnaws the family. Ironically, their collective materialism served as their bond. However, the same was used by the labandera to take a firmer hold on them.
(Read his complete entry here.)
Thank you, Girard, and best wishes on your new work in Bangkok! (Yes, he's leaving in a month's time with his P300 suitcase bought at the Evangelista flea market. Winner!)
PLUS: My friend Steve, a pharmacist by profession but a theater buff by avocation, also watched the "XX and X" trilogy with me and Mixkaela. He dashed off his own impressions of the plays, and they're at his blog, Melange. Some highlights:
On Oggie Arcenas' "Seance:" Quite tame and straightforward storytelling about the effect of guilt and unfinished business, and seeking forgiveness, against a background of quack fortunetelling spiritistas that exist in the bowels and corners of a decaying city (naks, parang totoo.) The set truly brought the abode of a manghuhula into life...
On Allan Lopez's "Kasaysayan:" I didnt understand this play because it was like a freeverse poem played on stage, music was mixed with the scenes to evoke a point, but the most vivid was the playing dead guy, in black brief, started hurling shit all around and hitting a startled and horrified front row audience, of course it was fake, but the psychological perception was very real it was disgusting, but it made a point. In my small mind's understanding , the dead guy is a symbol of business and all people involved in a capitalistic economy, nothing good is already produced, and it is full of excrement, yet heartless business moguls still want to extract the most profit by creating new programs, new products to sell and make money, the R & D people, the marketing people are represented by the bleeding old guy, who must have aged quickly because of the demands imposed by management. Pleasure was depicted as animalistic sex at the expense of the suffering of many who toil and are dying and decaying.
On George Vail Kabristante's "My Padir is an OCW:" When the transvestite guy clad in a brilliant blue sequined gown came on stage lipsynching to Streisand, I thought immediately of Didi in the curtain call of "ZsaZsa" [Zaturnnah]... Ah hangover!!! The set was sparse, but enough to convey a seedy club joint. The transvestite guy reminded me of Patrick Swayze's character as Vida in "To Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar." Can't believe a man his built is able to be so soft and feminine in a gown. The dancer boy expresses innocence and hardness at the same time, toughened by the abuse he received... I was surprised the director, Ms. Issa [Lopez] is my childhood kapitbahay. Kudos, Issa!
(Read his complete entry here.)
Hey Steve, you owe me a round of beer!