|Sherry Lara and Eugene Domingo|
A more subdued Eugene Domingo delivers a chilling and disturbing portrayal as a daughter bent on committing suicide in ‘Night Mother, the 50th Anniversary season ending production of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA).
In her return to theater since starring in Bona five years ago, Eugene sheds her larger than life comedy persona opposite veteran actress Sherry Lara in this one act, 90 minute Filipino adaptation by Ian Lomongo of Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize winning play.
The play starts on a typical Saturday evening for Thelma (Lara) who is scheduled to have her nails done by her daughter Jessie (Domingo) who lives with her. But Jessie, a divorced mother who has epilepsy, seems to be preoccupied in finding the gun owned by her deceased father. Once she finds it, she tells in a nonchalant fashion to her mother that she intends to shoot herself with it before the night is over.
Drama ensues as the mother tries to persuade her daughter numerous times to ditch her plan. And along the way, pent up feelings and long held secrets are brought to the surface. But will it be enough to make Jessie change her mind? One has to watch to find out.
Watching this play during the press preview, I felt like a nosy neighbor peeking at the intimate moments between mother and daughter that I wasn’t supposed to see. There had been several times when I wanted to intervene but was unable to do so since I was just a member of the audience. I believe that the two could’ve lessened each other’s misery had there been another human being present in their household. It did really feel like each felt alone despite the two of them living together in one household.
Notable was Eugene’s performance that was more restrained and subdued compared to her mainstream television and film appearances. She made her Jessie complex as one who is on the surface exhibits cool, calm, collected, rational, and a very thorough personality but harbors inner suicidal thoughts.
A perfect foil for Jessie was Sherry Lara’s Thelma, who had a wider range of emotions as she continuously tried to make Jessie think otherwise. Had I thought of it then, I would’ve taken note if Thelma went through the five stages of grief in that span of 90 minutes. One could really feel her frustration and helplessness as Thelma was reduced to having tantrums and acting like a child with Jessie cleaning up (literally) after her and assuming the role of the parental figure.
|Post show talk|
After the show, there was a talk with the cast and creative team, along with a couple of mental health experts with the questions from the press mostly about depression and suicide. The talk with the mental health experts will be a feature after each performance of ‘Night Mother as PETA hopes that this production will be a platform for people to talk and be open about depression, suicide and other mental health issues and remove the stigma for these topics that have been considered taboo for the longest time.
The Philippine Educational Theater Association’s ‘Night Mother opens on February 2, 2018 and will have performances during weekends until March 18, 2018 at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City