The play has an English version, and a fine Filipino translation by Liza Magtoto. The first time I watched the English-language show, the cast (Leo Rialp, Sherry Lara, Peewee O'Hara, Roeder Camanag and Amihan Ruiz) seemed unusually enervated, the show perking up a bit in the second act but still plodding along to a listless finish. I heard later on that the Saturday 8 p.m. show was the third time the cast had done the play that day. They were clearly pooped by then.
The Filipino version, with Rody Vera taking over the role of the oppressive ultra-Orthodox patriarch from Mr. Rialp in the English version, and Uleb Nieto from Ms. Ruiz the role of the headstrong daughter, was far more alive, at least on the afternoon I caught it. The students from the Chiang Kai Shek College who filled the Little Theater (it was a sponsored show) enjoyed the show a lot, judging from how they reacted to every little pinprick of humor in the dialogue, or a quirky situation in the plot.
Last Thursday, I got invited to a gala night organized by the Israeli Embassy (security, to quote Whoopi Goldberg, was tighter than the faces of some of the society women who attended). The evening had a special surprise: The playwright herself, Ms. Liebrecht, had flown in from Tel Aviv (where the play has been running for three years now) to see how her thoroughly Jewish play of tradition and modernity clashing in modern-day Jerusalem would survive the transition to Manila.
Ms. Liebrecht, in her brief remarks in flawless English, appeared to be a very gracious, cosmopolitan, intelligent woman. She could only have been happy with the play that ensued, because the cast, this time perhaps pumped up more than usual by the august audience before it, gave a beautifully modulated performance of the English-language play, nearly every line singing with both the richness and pathos of the alien--but not quite--country and culture it depicted.
The rest of this weekend will be devoted to the English-language shows. Next weekend will be entirely in Filipino. (The week after that, Madonna Brava, aka Mother Courage and Her Children--Brecht set in Mindanao--starts its run, with Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino in the lead.) Go make that trek to the CCP now.
PLUS: A teaser--Rody Vera and Roeder Camanag reading an excerpt from the (Filipino) play, performed during TP's season presscon some weeks ago. The scene: The father (Rody) storms to a far-off kibbutz in the Negev desert to drag his recalcitrant daughter back to Jerusalem. The daughter refuses, a violent fight ensues that pits the father against his wife and sister-in-law, who both side with the daughter. The father accidentally strikes his sister-in-law, a hunchback. Shamed, he rushes off to the bus station; the girl's boyfriend (Roeder) runs after him, intending to talk. What follows is essentially a summation of the questions at the heart of the play--the collision of changing values, the friction between old and new, the task of finding happiness in either the comfort of tradition or the bracing thrill of the untried. Watch: