August 2, 2015
I am not a millennial. I am already probably at the age of their parents. I did not really know that this term existed until lately. The media had long been labelling generations with hip terms like Baby Boomers, Gen X, now Millennials (also called Gen Y). The word "millennial" refers to someone less than 34 years old with a supposedly complicated psyche that was difficult to understand. This original Filipino play aims to try to make us understand this misunderstood group.
The Sandbox Collective is a new theater group that prides itself with developing "new, groundbreaking and cutting edge theatrical work". This theater group debuted last year with "Dani Girl" about a girl battling cancer, which was met with critical acclaim. Then they organized a three-day festival of experimental theater and other visual arts called "Imaginarium." Unfortunately, I was not able to watch either one. Fortunately this time, I was able to catch this new project of theirs.
"No Filter" is, as its subtitle clearly tells us "an original play by millennials for millennials about millennials." It is stated who their target audience was when they conceptualized this show -- it is "for millennials". I guess it is for them to take a look at themselves to discover how their problems and issues are also shared by other millennials like them. I am watching this play because of the good word of mouth about it, as well as to know more about them since my own kids will be among them soon enough. I may not get all the details right since I am not part of their target audience. I may have a different opinion as an outsider to their group.
The cast tonight included 3 ladies: Jasmine Curtis Smith, Sarah Facuri and Lauren Young; and two guys: Khalil Kaimo and Micah Munoz. (On other nights, Cai Cortez, Saab Magalona- Bacarro and Mikael Daez have their turn.) These five were talking around a table about how Millennials have made it to the cover of Time magazine. They were discussing how the world misunderstood their generation. Hence they should be talking about themselves so people will understand them better.
The monologues of Act 1 were so witty and well-written, mostly in hip English with the occasional dash of Filipino -- really a lot of fun. I understood the pop references and the issues tackled. I liked and enjoyed all of the pieces, which were generally light-hearted and humorous. The monologues in Act 2 were more dark and serious consecutively. The topics all seemed to melt into each other about religion, about connecting and disconnecting, about writing to you future self, about moving out, about coming of age. While the writing was still sharp, I found the mood too relentlessly down and somber so late in the night for comfort.
Jasmine Curtis Smith easily stood out from the start because of her celebrity star status. But it won't be long until she will really stand out because she was really so good in her assigned monologues. In Act 1, she impressed as a new Graphic Design graduate applying for a job who was tormented by anxieties. She handled her splitting personality deftly. In Act 2, she shone as the girl who hated "Catcher in the Rye" and as the girl who went to New York to fake her own death.
I did not know who Sarah Facuri was coming into this, but during the play I would be a fan. In Act 1, she talked about how her life would "suck" when she was happy. Then she would be a woman discussing "intimacy" with her partner. In Act 2, she was the most memorable "millennial in the neighborhood" as the hilarious Fag Hag. Later she again had audiences giggling as she talked about meeting people on an app called Tinder. This app was something I had no idea about, but I was in stitches.
Micah Munoz surprised me. I could not believe it when I was told he was the same actor who played Ser Chief's driver Joma in the long-time TV soap opera "Be Careful with My Heart". Micah delivered his monologues in impeccable English with impressive sensitivity. In Act 1, he got to deliver that beautiful piece about Icarus and not being afraid to fly high for our dreams. Later he would stand out in the "Instagram pic" group piece as the closeted gay guy. In Act 2, he discussed religion and confessed how he was only going through the motions for the sake of his mother.
Khalil Kaimo (and his distinctive hairstyle) was most memorable for his comic commercials as he promoted his favorite new apps. The best one in Act 1 was "Nasaan si Crush?" is an Waze-like app that would show you the nearest route to your crush. The best one in Act 2 was Junkstagram, an app that would let you see the photos that your friends have deleted. The others though were not too interesting nor as funny. Kaimo's first monologue about not losing your first real and idealistic you was also very good.
Lauren Young's best monologue was her first one in Act 1. She talked about downloading mp3s from a dial up internet and we all definitely identified with what she was saying. In Act 2, she would talk about social media, social causes and social responsibility. I think Lauren would then have a very serious monologue about suicide towards the end, but I was already wallowing in too much millennial angst by that time to recall all the details clearly.
The whole show went on almost for more than two and a half hours with a 10 minute interval. The script contained generous serving of profanities which are, sadly (for me at least), considered to be "cool". I felt they should have reserved some of these pieces for a Part Two. Considering the lateness of the hour, Act 2 already felt too long with all the deep and depressing monologues going on one after the other continuously. The supposedly "fun" improv games ("F**k, Marry, Kill" in Act 1 and "Paint Me a Picture" in Act 2) was only occasionally funny. That piece delivered entirely in emojis flashed on the screen totally lost me. Ok, I have to admit that I am already an old fuddy duddy about these things. That is although I may already have some millennial habits, especially their mobile phone and social media obsession. :-D
In any case, generally I thought this was a refreshing project that deserves all the positive notices and sold out shows it had during its limited run. I just wish I knew who the exact writers of my favorite pieces were. The names of the writers could have been flashed on the screen together with the titles. Many of these monologues were really written so eloquently with such frankness, humor and raw emotion. I want to read the scripts! Kudos to all these millennial Filipino writers! I look forward to reading more of your work and watching them come alive on stage or screen.
Kudos to director Toff de Venecia for conceptualizing this idea, commissioning all these creative young writers and gathering promising young actors into one worthy show like this. A more streamlined version of this show could seriously aspire to be like another "The Vagina Monologues" and be toured around the world and translated into different languages and adapted into different cultural contexts.
"No Filter" has only one show left in its run, and that is today at 3pm, still at the RCBC Theater. For ticket inquiries, call 0917-8996680.