By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – A lot of people claim that the golden age of theater was long gone with the advent of mass media, mainly television and the new media. But the Philippine Educational Theater Association disagrees. In their newest play “Bona,” the theater group proved that these platforms could be corroborated to provide a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience.
“Bona” was originally a Lino Brocka film shown in 1980. Nora Aunor, one of the country’s premiere actresses who played the lead role, was obsessively in love with a Gardo, played by Philip Salvador, a struggling actor in the Philippine show business industry.
In today’s adaptation, Bona, played by Eugene Domingo, is a hardworking call center agent who supports her family, including the schooling of her sister’s children. Just like in the film, she leaves everything behind, including her family, friends and her job, to be with Gino Sanchez, played by Edgar Allan Guzman, a contestant in a talent search program on television. It was directed by Soxie Topacio and written by Layeta Bucoy.
Prior to the staging of “Bona,” several news articles came out asking Eugene if she thinks she would be able to surpass the kind of acting that Aunor gave into the film. There is, however, an astounding difference between how the two actresses “attacked” their characters because one was melodramatic and other was funny yet ironic.
Funny and serious
This is not the first time that Eugene acted on stage though she is more known now for her comedy films that were box office hits. In both film and stage, she showed how versatile an actress she is. Eugene brought her charms and wit on the stage.
There were several scenes when it is hard to tell if Eugene is ad-libbing or if it is still part of the play. “Looks like our neighbors are having barbeques again,” Eugene said in Filipino, while trying to get rid of the smoke coming from the fog machine. The audience roared with laughter.
Even Edgar himself was laughing candidly or at least he appeared to be while Eugene delivered some of her lines.
The play “Bona” has a different take from the film because it is laced with comedy. But when the dramatic scenes were called for, both Eugene and Edgar pulled it off.
When the character Bona finally comes to her senses, she pours boiling water on Gino. It was the most famous scene in the film yet when rendered on stage, the audience still acted surprised, thrilled and chilled to the bones when it happened. The building of tension among the characters, along with the acting, music, lighting, among other technicalities of the play, blended smoothly leading to that climactic scene.
Although the story revolved mainly about Bona’s obsession with Gino, the play also portrayed a kind of friendship that, this writer thinks, every Filipino should have. It is the genuine yet brutal kind of friendship that Bona has with her gay friend Baldie, played by Joey Paras.
They constantly annoy and even humiliate each other. But in times of need, they are there for each other, including waking up Bona from her fantasies that is destroying her each passing day.
Another is the undying love that Bona’s landlord and suitor Bert, played by Julienne Mendoza, offered to her. During the press preview of Bona, Mendoza received one of the loudest cheers from the audience for the compelling and touching role he did for the play.
“Bona” is a must-watch play. It would make you laugh, make you want to scream or even make you cry. But at the end of the play, it would not be hard to contemplate that there is indeed a tiny Bona in all of us. It could be anything that fixates you and drives us away from our dreams, hurt people we care about and even our very own selves. We can either accept the bitter pill with open arms or fight it just as Bona did.