While I had watched a number of theater productions with sensitive themes, even plays with nudity, I had actually never seen an original local play that billed itself as a sex comedy. I had no idea how this play was going to go down, but knowing how Filipinos enjoy their green jokes, I thought this show, to be shown for one-night only at the Music Museum, should be a lot of fun to watch.
Jonamae San Andres (April Gustilo) was a Filipina who found success in the US as a porn star with the screen name of Veronica Fox. In her desire to open doors for Filipinos to wanted to follow in her footsteps, she accepted an offer to make a local porn film. She was proud of her job and saw porn as an expression of female empowerment, not victim-hood.
The director of Veronica's new project was Dino, an award-winning director whose career had been on the skid. He still wanted to make this film artistic and relevant, but his lecherous Chinese producer Mr. Lee simply wanted to make plain pointless profitable porn. The two supporting porn actors in the film were Georgina (Tori Garcia) and Nicolas (Andres Vasquez), both of whom had been forced by poverty into the skin trade.
JV San Miguel (John Raspado), a very popular mainstream actor, solicited the services of a home service masseur named Alfred (Vivo Ouano). The two tell each other their respective life stories and discussed the conflict of love and ambition. Alfred shared that his ultimate dream was to be an actor. JV, who had fallen in love with the hunk, promised to help him fulfill that dream.
These two separate threads merged into one cohesive narrative by Act 2. Then it gave the audience six different options for how this play could end based on which character gets accidentally shot and killed in a moment of deadly passion. The play concludes with an epilogue set during a showbiz awards night which told about the fate the film they were making (also entitled "Solo Para Adultos"), as well as the fates of each of the characters.
The stage before the show
All the main actors, all unknown to me prior to this show, were very game in their daring and naughty roles. April Gustilo, who gained fame before as Wowowee's "Congratulations" girl, exuded confidence and bravado as her character required. The very fit and charismatic Vivo Ouano and much heftier and brooding John Raspado played their parts seriously, despite being mostly with their shirts off and only a towel around their waists. Cutie Tori Garcia and boyish Andres Vasquez were mainly there for comic relief, despite some sad details in their stories.
It was actually the supporting actors who really made the show come to life with their over-the-top comedy antics. Dodie Cruz, who played Mr. Lee, was constantly on a high level of energy. Ex-That's Entertainment member Brylle Mondejar, who played Direk Dino, was very convincing in delivering his artsy-fartsy convictions. Mosang, who played both the brash producer Mrs. Lee and the butch manager Tito, was very versatile. Genesis Gallios (who played the predator gay director giving JV a "workshop"), Tads Obach (who played TV hosts Mike Enriquez, Gus Abelgas and Boy Abunda), and Racing Chat (who played Jonamae's mother) all made a strong humorous impact.
The play was quite entertaining, especially those who are interested in the sleazy goings-on behind the glitter and glamour of legitimate show business. It was fun to pick out all the local showbiz references squeezed into the script, like how Raspado looked like Jay Manalo and Ouano looked like Orestes Ojeda. It was also timely because it tackled the controversial casting couch, a staple of Hollywood news these days with the Harvey Weinstein scandal. At first, the dirty jokes and frank language may give an initial jolt, but being played for laughs and the wordplay so witty, you get used to them in no time. It was the more serious touchy-feely intimate scenes which could be uncomfortable to watch depending on your own orientation and sensitivities.
The attractive cast during their curtain call
If there was a drawback of the show, it would have to be was length, almost three hours with two 10-minute intermissions. Some people sitting beside me were already dubbing it a "Lav Diaz" of plays. In Act 1 alone, we see the life stories of all six main characters played out in individual flashback vignettes. In Act 2, there were six different endings played out, each one was narrated by six known TV emcees. Act 3 opened with an unnecessary full dance number by a group of boy dancers. Then ironically, it seems NONE of those ending options we spent a significant time on in Act 2 ever happened at all!
I guess that is what you get when you have three writers (Bong Ramos, AJ Rollon, and James Golla) contributing material with so much to say. The emotions of the various acts were going up and down like a roller coaster shifting between heavy drama and slapstick comedy. The material in each act may sound good separately; but when put together as a whole, it felt unwieldy in its own complexity. Some judicious streamlining needs to be done by director Alejandro "Bong" Ramos to trim the material down to a more manageable length if and when it gets re-staged in the future.