Repertory Philippines’ new play is us in 30 years

I’ve always thought about what life would be like when I get to my middle ages. When I was a kid, I was so excited to grow up, dreaming of all the things I could do: earning my own money, buying my own things, being in control of my life. Now that I’m at the beginning of my adulthood, these dreams are slowly becoming reality, and one thing I’ve realized since then is that I don’t want to grow old too fast.

Part of this realization came after watching Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. A comedy written by American playwright Christopher Durang, the play centers around three siblings in the middle of their lives, talking about their successes, failures and regrets. Even at 23, I think about these things once in a while, constantly analyzing what to do next. As I watched, I wondered if my life would eventually turn out the same way as theirs. It was like watching your titos and titas drunkenly conversing about their lives after a couple of glasses of wine at a family get-together — quite entertaining to say the least, but not quite sure if you want to end up the same way.

Wild turkey: Sonia is played by Roselyn Perez.

The play, which is the opening production of Repertory Philippines’s 50th year, opens in the family home of Vanya, Sonia and Masha. Vanya and Sonia (played by Michael Williams and Roselyn Perez, respectively) have lived the whole of their uneventful lives in the house, taking care of their parents until they passed away. The siblings were aptly named by their professor parents after Chekhovian characters: Vanya is a gay romantic who yearns for the past, while Sonia (who is adopted, as she makes clear several times) is an old maid who’s done nothing with her life and calls herself a wild turkey who falls off her bed once in a while. Masha (expertly animated by Cherie Gil), on the other hand, is a successful but waning movie star who didn’t quite reach her original dream of being a classical actress. When Masha comes to visit the house and her two siblings, she brings along Spike (played by Rep baby Joaquin Vales), a brawn-over-brains kinda guy who can never seem to keep his clothes on.

The plot never leaves the family home, but the play’s gems are hidden in the details: it is filled with witty references and deft dialogue, citing many a Chekhovian trope cleverly but not without deference. While the play may seem like a spoof of the Russian author, director Bart Guingona tells us it is a “loving tribute.” A working knowledge of Chekhov’s works allows the play to become extra-hilarious, but is not required to enjoy the play with more than a few hearty laughs throughout.

The old and the new: Cherie Gil’s character Masha is contrased by Nina (played by Mica Pineda).

Even though the protagonists are in their middle ages, the play is still able to hit home for younger members of the audience. In one scene, Spike rudely texts in the middle of a performance, which results in a full-on outburst by Vanya. But Vanya makes us realize that the sermon isn’t unwarranted: he draws out where he comes from, and shows us how to appreciate the slower things from the past that we so easily overlook these days — sending handwritten notes, dialing on a rotary phone, making copies with carbon paper. Yes, these things were slow and inefficient, but they had a certain charm and authenticity that is sometimes lacking in texting and Twittering.

By the time the play approaches its end, and the central characters’ issues are somewhat resolved, we reach the conclusion that life really is what you make of it. It has its ups and downs, most definitely, but ultimately — and as cheesy as this sounds — you’re in control of how you feel about life, and you can always choose to be happy. Somehow, being 50 doesn’t seem so scary.

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