PEP REVIEW: Sayaw ng mga SENIORita

by Jocelyn Valle
Dec 19, 2012
Johnron Tañada and BB Gandanghari have a sensual dance in the comedy-drama play Sayaw ng mga SENIORita. defines the word gay as 1.) homosexual; 2.) of, indicating, or supporting homosexual interests or issues; 3.) having or showing a merry, lively mood; and 4.) bright or showy.

Sayaw ng mga SENIORita, a two-act comedy-drama play written by Jose Javier Reyes under the direction of Jun Pablo and the auspices of Gantimpala Theater, is all that—and more!

It is about four gay friends—Rading de Guzman (played by Soxie Topacio), Terry Mangubat (Joel Lamangan), Romeo Cajanding (Arnell Ignacio), and Dr. Gerry Almario (Manny Castañeda)—whose diverse personalities, professions, and principles open multiple windows into the lives of middle-aged homosexuals.

Rading is an antique collector and dealer who finds love with a much younger guy. Terry is a tightfisted businessman who doesn’t believe that gays will find true love, which prompts him to hire boys to satisfy his sexual needs. Romeo is both an impresario of male pageants and a manager of male showbiz wannabes. He also preys on his contestants and wards. Gerry, a cosmetic surgeon to the stars, hide his true sexual identity when his wife (China Cojuangco) is around.

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Their stories unfold when they get together one night to celebrate Rading’s 60th birthday party co-organized by Rading’s live-in partner Ollie Samson (Chase Cervera). But a bigger and more compelling story unfurls at the arrival of the stunning Raquel Villasor (BB Gandanghari), who came to the party upon the invitation of the birthday celebrator. Raquel turns out to be somebody from Terry’s past who had undergone a sex-change operation and then settled down with a sheikh in Dubai.

More secrets are revealed as the party continues. Other guests watch with lustful delight and, at one point, willingly take part in the bikini-open pageant featuring three of Romeo’s wards (Johnron Tañada, Christian Paul Meteoro, and Royce Chua).

But the party is rudely interrupted by a police raid, which signifies an end to Romeo’s illegal ways. It also allows the main cast members to ponder upon their life and ultimately leads to the play’s conclusion.

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Playwright Jose Javier Reyes is known primarily for his light-hearted romantic movies (May Minamahal, Kasal Kasali Kasalo) and comedy TV series (Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata, George and Cecil), and his foray into theater (after the hit 1989 musical, Katy!) likewise crackles with hilarious situations, witty one-liners, and strong punch lines.

There are times, though, when cast members—primarily veteran actors (and directors) Joel Lamangan, Soxie Topacio, Manny Castañeda, and former sing-along master Arnell Ignacio—are obviously doing ad-libs. The gambit works most of the time but sometimes, it eats into an otherwise solid theatrical piece.

Those cast members’ strong and seemingly effortless acting also underscores the inexperience of a theater newbie like BB Gandanghari. For instance, when references are made about his real life (Kamukha lang ni Eva Cariño”—referring to his mother or “Parang si Carmina lang”—referring to Carmina Villarroel whom he married when was still known as Rustom Padilla), BB is obviously taken aback and it takes him a few seconds to get back into character.

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As a result, the emotional points that the play tries to raise—like why Raquel wants closure with Terry and why Gerry’s wife knew all along that she has a gay husband—are not given sufficient attention.

Overall, Sayaw ng mga SENIORita is entertaining while offering an enlightening view on the lives of homosexuals.

Sayaw ng mga SENIORita premiered last November as part of the Fourth National Theater Festival held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It will be restaged by January 2013.

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