I have never been a fan of local theater. I’ve always equated plays staged by PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) as being overly dramatic, too historical and a little too subversive for my taste. A myopic point of view, probably because the only PETA plays I ever watched were those forced on me by school admin during my elementary and high school days.
However, last September I was pleasantly surprised, and seriously itching to buy tickets, as soon as I read about the renowned 80’s film classic, BONA, being adapted into a play and portrayed by my favorite contemporary Philippine comedian, Ms Eugene Domingo. Now I’m not ashamed of my fascination for local showbiz (despite its occasional tackiness), and I do love comedy, and I love Eugene even more as a comedian. I’ve been a fan since way before she struck gold with her starring role in the hit comedy flick, Kimmy Dora. So, it was no question that I was going to watch BONA, just because she was in it, and because I had a gut feeling it would become a big hit.
Some background from the PETA website (www.peta.com.ph) –
From the 1980’s Lino Brocka film starring Nora Aunor as the naïve, schoolgirl Bona and Philip Salvador as Gardo, the movie extra whom Bona worshipped out of fan obsession, PETA’s production presents a similar story with characters in the modern setting.
Portraying the title role, Eugene Domingo plays a spinster call center agent who becomes obsessed with a star-search wannabe actor essayed by Edgar Allan Guzman.
I’ve never seen the original film, but I do know that Lino Brocka is one of, if not the Philippine cinema’s best ever director, having spewed classics which current film makers only aspire to re-create. Neither am I a fan of Nora Aunor, but I do appreciate her dramatic prowess, etc.
BONA the play steered the story to a more modern setting, and nothing could be more current and realistic than having her character be a call center agent. She’s the eldest sibling who strives to be the strong rock in her small family – she sends her bright nephew to school because his happy-go-lucky mother could only set her sights so low, and isn’t really capable of being a responsible parent. In her mid thirties (I think), she struggles to balance her life and responsibilities, along with her own aspirations. Bona suddenly harbors a fixation on a reality show contestant, a younger man played by Edgar Allan Guzman, whose sob life story caught her heartstrings.
She goes all out with her fan girl-dom – she makes t-shirts with his name on it, she attends all his shows, she even distributes his favorite pastry at these shows (good lord…)! The play’s dialogue was, as expected, excellently witty and loosely peppered with sexual innuendos and swear words. Her fantasy comes true when, by some twisted fate, she ended up bringing home her idol after a night of drinking. With him being a down-and-out, and her being a natural problem-solver and nurturer, they ended up living together, at first under the pretense that she would help manage his flailing career. Their relationship later evolved to a cougar-ish physical affair, with her pulling all stops to help him, while he… well he ended up banging another woman, whom he claims he really loved.
Despite the comedic punches, effortlessly delivered by all actors (but especially by Bona and her gayer than gay best friend, I forget his name though), the play really hit home with questions on one’s priorities in life, like how far would you go for someone you love? Would you love a stranger more than you would your own flesh and blood? Can you tell love and obsession apart if it slapped you in the face? How much would you sacrifice yourself for the sake of another person? Are you ready to love another without being sure that person won’t cheat on you or bail on you? Is modern society really accepting of an older woman caring for a young man, and vice versa?
So yeah, needless to say I loved the play! It had me, my companions and the rest of the audience in stitches at all the right moments. It did so well that people clamored to extend the play’s run, even celebrities and veteran theater people endorsed it. I guess now I’ve got a lot more respect for PETA and its productions. I’ll have to try and catch some more of their work.
Credits to PETA for the play synopsis above. For more information, see http://www.petatheater.com.