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Paulanne Simmons

Filipino Playwrights X4

Diverse City Theater Company's Pearl Project Theater Festival
Various Directors
Theater Row's Clurman Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
Opened July 6, 2010
Schedule Varies
Tickets: $18, students $12 (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com
Closes July 25, 2010
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons July 16, 2010

Bonna Tek and Raul Aranas in "Something Blue." Photo by Bree Warner.

Diverse City Theater Company's Pearl Project Theater Festival is presenting four plays by Filipino playwrights running in repertory. Both series pair a one-act with a full-length play: "Quarter Century Baby" and "Resurrection" in the Red Series, and "The Encounter" and "Something Blue" in the Blue Series.

Some of these playwrights hold impressive degrees and have won numerous awards, but if the Blue Series is any indication, the writing is nevertheless amateurish and obvious.

Bonna Tek and Raul Aranas in "Something Blue." Photo by Bree Warner.

"Something Blue," a one-act written by Kristine M Reyes and directed by Andy Goldberg, is set in a New York City bridal suite. Rosabelle (Bonna Tek) is preparing for the ceremony when her father, Romy (Paul Aranas) enters. It's immediately evident that there is something amiss in the father/daughter relationship. And it doesn't take long before we find out that Romy stayed back home in the Philippines when Rosabelle and her mother left for America. The rest of the play is a slow revelation of why Romy didn't follow.

Alan Ariano in "The Encounter." Photo by Bree Warner.

Tek and Aranas leave one with the impression they are neither inspired by the play nor convinced of who they are. We keep hearing about their emotions but have a hard time believing they really feel them. The play ends with a resolution as unconvincing as the conflict.

"The Encounter," a full-length play written by Jorshinelle Taleon-Sonza and directed by Nelson T. Eusebio III, traces the rise and fall of Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, who for some reason is called Remedios. We first meet Marcos when he visits his political rival, Servillano (Alan Ariano) in prison. After being kicked around a bit, Servillano has a heart attack and is saved from death by Marcos, who fears turning the dissident into a martyr.

The rest of the story follows pretty consistently the history of U.S./Philippines relations from 1980 to 1986. Taleon-Sonza, who holds a Ph.D. in postcolonial literature from Drew University, is a fine academic. Marcos is a petty dictator; Remedios is a childish and ruthless beauty queen. They are eventually defeated by their own corruption.

Kurt Uy in "The Encounter." Photo by Bree Warner.

The play is best when it doesn't take itself too seriously. Jake Myers is excellent as both the cynical Agent Seagrave and the fumbling and foolish U.S. President John Wilson (his Ronald Reagan imitation is side-splitting.) But for the most part "The Encounter" is more like a dramatized history lesson than a play.

Eusebio relieves the torpor with some nice directorial touches: projections, a chorus with choreographed movement and an effective soundscape. But he is not able to triumph over the clichéd language and rambling action Taleon-Sonza has given him.

Diverse City Theater Company's mission to develop and produce "thought-provoking works that examine our society's diversity issues from social, cultural, gender and demographic perspectives" is certainly laudable. Bur we need a bit more to make good theater.



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