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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Repertory Philippines' "The Joy Luck Club": A Review


The Joy Luck Club is a play written by Susan Lim, who adapted it from the best-selling novel (1989) with the same title written by Amy Tan. Repertory Philippines’ version is the Asian premiere by special arrangement with Dramatis Play Service, Inc. in New York.


The Joy Luck Club is a novel made into a film in 1993 written by Amy Tan and Ronald Bass and directed by Wayne Wang. I have marvelled at the story and the film itself when we watched it in our class in Theories of Personality at De La Salle University in 1996. So when I heard that Repertory Philippines is staging this as a play, I told myself that I have to see this show. The group made its theatrical Asian debut of The Joy Luck Club in celebration of the Chinese New Year on February 3, 2011.


The play opened with the scene at the train station wherein 4 characters are leaving China to escape the bitterness of World War II. The scene in dramatic slow motion shows the heaviness of leaving their beloved homeland. Matching it with the sound effects of the bustling train, the crowd and the smoke made it a wonderful entrance.


Any Chinoy (Chinese-Filipino) could relate, the story  reveals how one’s values can alter with the change of environment and culture. The Joy Luck Club is a story about the relationships between Chinese-American women and their mothers. Mothers would force what they want their children to become and the daughters rebelled and tried to change the course of their own fate.


Director Anton Juan treated the play in a very unique way. “A chair is not a chair. The four chairs around the mahjong table are not chairs. They are the disembodied  spaces of stories that occupied them - North, East, South West...,” he describes. I also recognize the geometric shapes in the set. Juan explains that he showed the text memory as the present moment. "This triggers my breaking and re-arrangement of the lines and scenes into cubistic presences... I also treat the characters moving in and out as though crossing the spaces of memory and the present moment  broken into continuing passage from story to history, and from history to the moment."


The slanted big platform at the center is multi-functional, not only is it used as a space in the house or a room or a dining table but also transformed into a mahjong table all rolled into one. Characters play an imaginary mahjong set and eating with an imaginary dining set. Although the play compensated their invisibility with appropriate sounds, I think that it’s still good to have the actual mahjong set and other props in hand because of the actual use the scenes require. But with respect to the director’s approach and style, it is understandable because of the vastness of space of the platform.

Noticeable are the bamboos used in many parts of the set that give an Asian climate of the story.


For those who are already familiar with the film, it is included in this play the presence of the moon lady portrayed by Anthony Ong. This part is not present in the film version.

The parents of Lindo Jong (Frances Makil Ignacio) and Tyan-Yu (Luis Nieto) made a special arrangement for this very young couple (even not reaching adolescence yet) to engage and eventually wed. Lindo doesn't like getting married at a very young age and she doesn't like her husband either. Being abused by the family of Tyan-Yu, Lindo thought of ways to escape this horrible trap. She concocts stories that serve as bad luck signs for the marriage and the family. These signs are not clear in the play as in the movie. It is abrupt also to have these signs mentioned in the play without showing them clearly.


Cast did a superb performance! I must commend the powerful performance of Ana Abad Santos, Pinky Marquez, Jay Valencia Glorioso and Frances Makil Ignacio.


Theatre Company: REPERTORY PHILIPPINES
Show Dates: February 4-20, 2011
Date Watched: February 3, 2011 (Thursday, 8:00 pm)
Venue: ONSTAGE GREENBELT 1

THE JOY LUCK CLUB
[Genre: DRAMA]
Playwright: Susan Kim (Adapted from the original story of Amy Tan)
Director: Anton Juan
Actors: Pinky Marquez (An-Mei Hsu), Lily Chu (Lena St. Clair), Ana Abad Santos (Jing-Mei Woo), Rebecca Chuaunsu (Suyuan Woo), Cris Villonco (Waverly Jong), Jay Glorioso (Ying-Ying St. Clair), Jenny Jamora (Rose Hsu Jordan) and Frances Makil (Lindo Jong)

Ratings: Lowest – 0.0; Highest – 5.0

Production : 5.0
Stage Direction : 4.5
Story/ Script : 4.5
Production/Stage Design : 4.5
Costume Design : 5.0
Lighting Design : 4.5
Sound and/or Music : 4.5
Theatre Performance : 5.0

Average Rating: 4.69

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