Eugene Domingo comes full circle in 'Bona'
MANILA, Philippines - Less than two decades ago, while taking up graduate studies in English Studies: Creative Writing at UP Diliman, I had the theater circuit as beat for the Pahayagang Malaya (thanks to then Living section editor Winnie Velasquez).
Back then, the actress we now know as the Eugene Domingo was just starting out as a theater actress.
If my memory serves me right, her contemporaries included Mailes Canapi (now called Angelina Canapi), Candy Pangilinan, Frances Makil-Ignacio and Ge Malacaman-Villamil plus former child actress Harlene Bautista.
Eugene essayed many roles, and one that stands out is that of her performance as the wife of Datu Bulan in Floy Quintos’ “And St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos.” Even back then, Eugene and her contemporaries were already good at their craft. It’s amazing how this batch of actresses has gone places.
As for Eugene, after being typecast in roles that didn’t give justice to her talent, and after many years of exposure via TV sitcoms and doing support roles in movie comedies, she’s finally reached leading lady status and reaped rewards and awards (and how!) for her performances in “Kimmy Dora” and “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank.”
Asked on how she felt about her return to “the largest screen of all: the theater,” she replied, “I have come full circle.” She feels right at home in theater, and truly appreciates the warm camaraderie of the cast and crew where “walang intriga” (there are no intrigues).
On the night friends and members of the press watched the play, Eugene felt so honored to have been viewed by former mentors at the UP theater scene: Tony Mabesa and Behn Cervantes (although she didn’t get a chance to talk to them).
Nora Aunor won a Best Actress Award from Urian in 1980 for her intense portrayal of Bona, an obsessed fan of Gardo (portrayed by Philip Salvador). The film was the official entry to the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes International Film Festival in 1981 and was cited as one of the 100 Best Films in the World in the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
While fans of superstar Nora Aunor and her iconic movie “Bona” are all agog about wanting to watch PETA’s adaptation (written by multi-awarded playwright Layeta Bucoy), they must be warned that the theater version is very much different from the movie. Save for key scenes in the movie (praying to the Nazarene of whom Bona is a devotee, the bath scenes, dousing of boiling water at the end, etc.) it is essentially a nearly-totally-different “animal” altogether.
First off, Eugene’s Bona is a call center agent who seems to be a magnet of people who are always in need. We don’t even see Bona’s parents nor her brother, just her sister and nephew.
This is understandably so; Eugene and PETA’s Artistic Director Maribel Legarda did mention about the need to make the play more attuned to the times. Talent searches have been with us for decades. Still, this generation’s obsession with it makes it the best “venue” for Bona to learn about Gino Sanchez (no longer called the 70s/80s-sounding “Gardo”), a candidate vying for the grand prize in “Star of Tomorrow.”
After entertaining audiences for his portrayal as a college boy in love in “Ligo na U, Lapit na Me” and taking home a Best Actor award for it, boy-next-door Edgar Allan Guzman flexes his acting muscles anew. In this play (as in Ligo….), he comes out more than half the time half-naked, if not clad only in his underclothes.
Quite distracting, if you ask us; but then, it simply follows the spirit of the movie.
A friend remarks that the play is too "gay" — and, come to think of it, the “gay” flavor is stamped all over the play. Excellent actor Joey Paras (who came out recently in Jun Lana’s Bwakaw) as Bona’s BFF in the play sometimes steals the scene.
But didn’t Eugene unwittingly used to do that in the movies top-billed by AiAi de las Alas?
But then, PETA may probably be different from other theater companies in that work is essentially “collaborative”; and obviously, PETA’s ensemble of actors who may not have appeared in the play may have contributed heavily to the perpetual tweaking of the play. Indeed, every performance is different, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
If you just want to be entertained, you will definitely enjoy “Bona” from start to finish. However, you just have to forget “Bona” the movie, especially if you’re such a big fan of either Nora or Lino Brocka’s masterpiece of a movie.
Directed by Soxie Topacio, “Bona” also stars Phil Noble, Joey Paras, Jef Henson-Dee, Raffy Tejada, Juliene Mendoza, She Maala, Olive Nieto, Dudz Terana, Jason Barcial, Junevir Tabor, Gabs Santos and Anna Luna. - Rappler.com
Susan Claire Agbayani is a veteran freelance writer. She looks forward to watching, enjoying and writing about plays once again like she used to in the 1990s, and sharing these wonderful experiences with lovers of theater.