Twice-bitten: a review of The Maids I had never watched a play twice.

It was not until last Sunday afternoon that this happened. What attracted me to the play was the promise of seeing a theatre legend, Dr. Anton Juan, in action, and the fact that it would involve, in a rotating role, some of his former students and friends. “These are people who I’ve worked with before,” Juan told a group of writers one Sunday in late July, “[and] they hold a special place in my memory as an actor and a director.” The Maids, one of French intellectual Jean Genet’s plays, is a one-act drama loosely based on the affair of the Papin sisters, who killed both their employer and their daughter. The role of the Madame is played in this production, in rotation, by nine actors and actresses; Anton Juan plays the elder sister Solange and Topper Fabregas plays the younger sister Claire. (Juan emphasized that the play was originally meant to be acted out by men, although all the roles are female.) Juan said that the play reflected what he called Genet’s “heroic existentialism,” in contrast to the nihilism of his fellow existentialists, where liberation, even through death, was an issue. “Through illusion and doing their ritual [which forms the frame of the encounters with their mistress], they liberate themselves from the dominant culture.” For Juan, this resonated with him as a Filipino, where both perceptions of the world and of themselves as a subservient people became a troublesome issue for him in the past. “Through the years I have done this play,” he said, “I have seen our nation become [one] of subservient domestics.” He raised in particular the racism he encountered in Europe where “Filipino” became equated with “domestic helper” in some places, most notably Greece. I had the chance to catch both the preview, where Jay ____ was the Madame. That night was a chance to get to grips with the play’s story, where a “ritual” driven by a desire for vengeance goes awry…or does it? That night, Generoso played the Madame with all the elegance of a Frenchwoman straight out of the pages of ParisMatch or Vogue. It was a study in how an actor can emulate a foreign cultural type without descending into cliché. The tone the play took sounded almost natural, or matter-of-fact as a result of this “grounding” in its original context, but I was floored by the last five minutes as I was with the recent Cinemalaya film Debosyon. Genet’s language, in translation, is particularly florid but playful. It cuts at the right moments and in the hands of a good cast, it would swing appropriately between dark humor, sarcasm, and high drama. The effect of a small space such as our location, the Mirror Theatre Studio, is to allow for the audience to be intimately acquainted with the play, its language, and the emotional turn it takes without the cast having to resort to needless exaggeration that, honestly, would ruin it. Having come to grips with the story and the contours of the language, I watched it again. The Madame that afternoon was Meryl Soriano, who for a while was a

I was tempted to watch as many of the performances of this play as my schedule would allow to see how they would adjust. But what was consistent was the way Fabregas and Juan acted out the maids’ futile attempts to carry out their scheme. it evoked the young society matron who. a clash of cultures even. (It was a character that I could have sworn I have seen in a couple of art events in the last three years. At the play’s outset. I am glad to have seen this play twice. please contact (0917) 534 3223. as I increasingly am. For more information and tickets. The Maids will have its second and final weekend on August 16-18.) It was not in the grand gestures. This is a play that poses questions about how one views the other and how the other challenges one’s assumptions about them. And when Soriano as the Madame came in. It is in this clash of perceptions. It is interesting seeing how a veteran like Juan and a relative youngster like Fabregas would react to each of their fellow cast-members. The play is a MusicArtes/Theater Actors’ Guild of the Philippines presentation. like the way she would drop a fur coat she was seemingly giving away. that one is forced to think about changing attitudes. . and how the play would change as a result. came off as terribly contemptuous. but the little ones. but I came in not knowing what to expect.mainstay of the independent film scene (apart from her roles in television). amidst a seeming flippance. and no. An acquaintance assured me the day before that she really knew her stuff. what did change was the strength of the contempt that was manifest in the ritual. I think I’ll stop here. and how they portrayed the contrasts Genet made between supposedly fragile Claire and stoic Solange.

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