Whenever the topic on death comes up, the 1997 film ‘Batman and Robin’, (which was written by Akiva Goldsman and directed by Joel Schumacher) reminds me about the line that Alfred Pennyworth uttered, “There is no defeat in death.”
Is it really what the latest production of Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) on Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer prize-winning play ‘night, Mother’, which was adapted by Ian Lomongo, and directed by Melvin Lee?
This straight play stars Eugene Domingo as Jessie as a middle-aged, unemployed epileptic woman with a failed marriage and a deeply troubled son; and Sherry Lara as Thelma, Jessie’s mother who is in a dilemma on how she could convince her daughter to skip the planned suicide.
Suicide is NOT to be set aside.
In an article published on GMA News Online, Philippines has the lowest suicide rate among ASEAN-member countries; but still it is the second leading cause of death globally among people 15 to 29 years of age, according to the 2014 global report on preventing suicide by the World Health Organization.
Since the play is adapted into a Filipino setting, it is just right to highlight the kind of behavior that Jessie (Domingo) is exhibiting is already something for any parent or loved one has to look into and be alarmed on anyone they know and love who maybe experiencing depression.
Clearly the attitude of Thelma toward depression and her daughter is not an of it as an illness, but it is just something that Jessie will eventually snap out of it. But, like Jessie who’s resolute in committing suicide was already different because it has been distorting the way she’s thinking.
Lara’s acting is something to celebrate because she naturally showed the usual reaction of a mother (with her being helpless about the decision) whose daughter has already decided to die. Here’s hoping that this play would help open the minds of many Filipinos that are suffering the same condition.
One Powerful Intimate Family Drama.
Even if Domingo insisted that she is not the suicidal-type and that she is happy because she has a lovelife; and life is beautiful—her portrayal of Jessie, (which was once taken on by Sissy Spacek in the film version of the play); she still gave justice to the character who has been feeling tired, hurt, sad, and being used in life.
Lara, on the other hand is such an intense actor just like Anne Bancroft in the film. She, being a mother; confused and is panicky; she was able to effectively depict her character especially when she broke down in trying to appeal for her daughter to reconsider not to commit suicide before the sun rises.
The scenes they have together inside the house is just like allowing the audience to eavesdrop in their respective struggles as mother-and-daughter and as individuals.
While the set design where some of the parts of the house is already dilapidated—simply signify the internal struggles between the two characters. Lee, the director succeeded in presenting a typical scenario of a Filipino family who has a family member suffering from depression; are embarrassed to seek help. And there is truth on what Jean Goulbourn, president of the mental health advocacy group Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, explained that many Filipinos do not understand depression.
A Great Way to Close the Season.
Though emotionally intense and complex in its theme; the company has created a platform to talk about depression and mental health; it is a great way to close the company’s 50th theatre season.
Such piece is a testament of what PETA stands for over the years. Staging this–is a great risk, but the move is just timely especially that there are more and more lives were overcame by depression and gave in to committing suicide.
It is known that a family performs several essential functions for society. Three of which that the play suggests both Jessie and Thelma may have failed in nurturing are in the areas of socializing with children, providing emotional and practical support for its members, and it providing its members with a social identity.
Thus, this play may not be the usual entertaining kind of presentation; it seeks to remind its audiences that there is such a need to be responsible and responsive to every member of the family.
The play opens on February 2 and closes on March 18. Tickets are available via TicketWorld.com.