Tag Archives: Eugene Domingo

art + music by Emil Hofileña

‘Night, Mother Is a Powerful but Clunky Take on Mental Illness

PETA’s 50th season ender puts Eugene Domingo and Sherry Lara in a compelling one-act play that needs updating

Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Marsha Norman, Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (PETA) production of ‘Night, Mother takes place in real time over the course of one night. Jessie (Eugene Domingo) tells her mother, Thelma (Sherry Lara), that she has decided to commit suicide that very evening, and Thelma spends the next 90 minutes trying to convince her daughter to stay alive.

‘Night, Mother is a difficult play by design, both for the audience and for the company staging it. Understandably, some of the risks it takes don’t totally pay off. The play leaves something to be desired in its exploration of mental illness, but it maintains an unshakeable atmosphere of anxiety, and the performances from its two actresses are terrifying in their authenticity.

What makes the acting in this production fascinating is how emotionally distant the two women are. As Jessie, Domingo is eerily placid, her movements deliberate and her speech dejected. As Thelma, Lara grows increasingly frantic, trying every tactic in the book to connect with her daughter. The way each woman reacts to the other’s brokenness is the main attraction here.

Given that the play only consists of two women arguing without any theatrical flourishes, it’s especially impressive how director Melvin Lee keeps the momentum going from the first revelation to the last. You can sense the tension in how Jessie and Thelma circle around each other. This is where production design becomes key: all the intricate furnishings in this living room setup serve as both distractions and barriers. They try to ignore the elephant in the room by keeping their hands busy, or they tear through the objects standing between them.

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All of this only helps deepen the grief growing between mother and daughter. As the night goes on in the play, Jessie and Thelma peel the layers off each other, exposing their complicated relationship and the reasons that must have compelled Jessie to decide to take her own life.

Unfortunately, much of ‘Night, Mother’s script still feels stuck in the 80s. Discourse on mental health is much more nuanced today than it was before, so the play can’t help but appear to have a rudimentary understanding of the subject. It’s true that the play’s limitations only allow it to objectively portray a mental illness sufferer without going into many details, but it still doesn’t feel as thorough as today’s viewers deserve. At worst, viewers who aren’t given the proper guidance might interpret Jessie’s rationalizations of suicide as valid and selfless. And while PETA does provide a debriefing session with mental health professionals after every show, it wouldn’t have hurt if Melvin Lee and writer Ian Lomongo were more subjective—clearer about what behavior isn’t acceptable.

As the finale to PETA’s 50th season, ‘Night, Mother is currently more valuable as a performance piece than an educational tool. Thankfully, the company is committed to providing additional material, including teacher’s guides, to ensure that the play is processed with the proper sensitivity. Still, on its own, ‘Night, Mother is rewarding enough to recommend, but is strictly only for people who know what they’re getting into.

 

 

‘NIGHT, MOTHER RUNS UNTIL MARCH 18 AT THE PETA THEATER CENTER, QUEZON CITY.
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Emil Hofileña
Emil is a staff writer at Rogue Media. He spends way too much time and money watching movies, crying to Hamilton, and fawning over Carly Rae Jepsen. He believes all stories are worth telling. Follow him on Youtube at youtube.com/cinemil and on Twitter at @EmilHofilena.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2’ is Short on Jokes

This sequel doesn’t actually have a lot to say about the modern local romcom.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsAng Babae sa Septic Tank 2 is once again about filmmaker Rainier (Kean Cipriano), who has apparently found some success from his film in the previous movie. He has written a new film about a couple trying to salvage their relationship by taking a trip to Baguio and all the places where they once fell in love. He is once again casting Eugene Domingo in his movie, and he and his crew meet with her at a first class resort to talk about the project. Over the course of their stay, amidst various spa treatments, Domingo makes several suggestions that radically differ from Rainier’s vision of his film.screenshot_20161222-134035
Like the first movie, this sequel is mainly made up of little movie-within-the-movie vignettes, all the humor stemming from the replication of various elements of filmmaking. The entire arc here is that Eugene Domingo is trying to turn Rainier’s moody little drama about a relationship in free fall into something Star Cinema might release. The flaw here, like in the first film, is that the movie doesn’t really seem to have much sympathy for its main characters. There seems to be some sort of an attempt here to provide an emotional framework to help us understand the artist at the heart of this story, but it really doesn’t work.screenshot_20161222-134209
Over the course of the film, we learn that there is a reason that this particular script is so important to the filmmaker. But these reasons don’t result in anything particularly affecting. The movie doesn’t really get to properly address the narrative arc that it’s suggesting. Instead, the movie just circles around a single point: mainstream movies are very artificial. Every “suggestion” that Domingo offers up is just the same iteration of the same joke, the movie methodically excising the verisimilitude from Rainier’s film in order to make it more appealing to the masses.screenshot_20161222-134506
So the theoretical star is replaced and a best friend character is added. There is a long sequence that explains the various types of hugot lines that might be used in a movie like this. It all feels terribly empty and mean-spirited. This kind of parody tends to work best when there is a genuine affection for the material being made fun of. Like the first movie, this sequel exudes a sense of superiority that doesn’t feel at all justified. It may be true that the Eugene Domingo character’s suggestions seem to be pretty bad, but the movie doesn’t really offer very many reasons to care.screenshot_20161222-134153
And unlike the first film, this movie doesn’t have the one sustained sequence of absurdity that nearly saves the whole thing. It attempts to stretch out the same joke over the course of the entire film, but it never comes close to the sublime heights of the visit to Eugene Domingo’s house in the first movie.screenshot_20161222-134108Domingo, to be fair, is trying everything she can to sell the joke of the film, but there aren’t really that many jokes. Kean Cipriano is unable to glean any sympathy for his character, though there just isn’t any there to be found. Cai Cortez is back, and is now speaking, but her role is empty. Khalil Ramos takes up the role that Cortez had in the first film but with none of the purpose.screenshot_20161222-134334
Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2, apart from a very committed performance from Eugene Domingo and a funny little turn from Joel Torre, doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. The thing is, it doesn’t actually have a lot to say about the modern local romcom. It’s just pointing out the recognizable elements, making it out like the mere identification of them is a joke in itself. This is the same problem I had with the first movie, and things just haven’t gotten any better in the years since then.

ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2 AND THE OTHER COMPETING FILMS IN THE METRO MANILA FILM FESTIVAL RUN FROM DEC 25 TO JAN 3.

 

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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.