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The Pearl Project

Diverse City's Filipino-American theater festival showcases Eric Gamalinda's intriguing but uneven poetic drama Resurrection. logo
Alexis Camins, Tiffany Villarin, Ching Valdes-Aran,
and Victor Lirio in Resurrection
(© Carlo Damocles)
Grief and guilt intermingle in Eric Gamalinda's intriguing but uneven poetic drama Resurrection, one of the featured productions in Diverse City's Filipino-American theater festival, The Pearl Project, at Theatre Row's Clurman Theatre.

In the play, a family in the Philippines is attempting to come to terms with the recent death of one of their own, under circumstances that only become clear late in the play. Matriarch Anita (Ching Valdes-Aran) was never that close to her deceased daughter Anna, and she alternately seems to want to mourn and forget her. The latter is something that Eduardo (Victor Lirio) cannot do. He seems emotionally crippled by the loss of his sister, and either sees or imagines ghosts who continue to haunt him. His brother Edgar (Alexis Camins) just wants to move forward. Among other things, he's recently brought into the family's home Belinda (Tiffany Villarin) and her baby boy, who may or may not be Edgar's son.

Tensions run high in this dysfunctional family, particularly between the pushy Belinda and the sullen Eduardo, who are prone to shouting at and insulting one another. Neither are particularly likable, and audience sympathies are apt to shift from scene to scene.

Gamalinda's script has a lyrical quality that gives a vaguely dream-like air to the proceedings, which is reinforced by Maruti Evans' set design, which features an upside down tree suspended over the stage and dead leaves scattered across the floor. Curiously, the dialogue also takes on a Chekhovian flavor at times, particularly as Anita continually reminisces about the pretty girls in fancy dresses that used to come and visit her sons.

Not everything works. An early monologue from Anita unloads exposition in an awkward manner, and certain passages of the script similarly come across as contrived. The ending of the play leaves too much unresolved, and there doesn't seem to be an adequate follow up to the revelation that Eduardo unfolds in the third act. In addition, the pacing of director Michael Sexton's production is a little too slow.

Valdes-Aran seemed a little unsure of her lines at the performance I attended, but has a strong presence and is particularly effective in a scene in which Anita rips out pages from her dead daughter's journal. Lirio has the showiest part in the script, but isn't always able to make the necessary emotional connection to the material, particularly in an extended drunk sequence.

Villarin captures the right balance between a hard-edged pragmatism and an underlying vulnerability that emerges at certain moments within the play. Camins looks a bit too clean-cut for his role as a hard-working mechanic, but he nicely portrays his part as a man torn between the family he grew up with and the one he's trying to start.

Preceding Resurrection is Kristine M. Reyes' short play, Quarter Century Baby, about a young woman named Carissa (Ali Ewoldt) who is thrown into a panic when she finds out her parents are coming to visit her from the Philippines. She has neglected to tell her folks that her Caucasian boyfriend Jeremy (Christopher Kloko) is cohabiting with her, and has also failed to tell Jeremy a few things about the apartment they're living in.

The play pits Jeremy's blue-collar upbringing against Carissa's immigrant family, but the dialogue is a bit too heavy-handed for its own good. Under Adam Fitzgerald's direction, the conflict that arises between the couple feels inorganic, with neither actor really deriving much emotional truth from their lines.

[Ed. Note: The Pearl Project also features a second evening of plays, which includes Reyes' Something Blue and Jorshinelle Taleon-Sonza's The Encounter.]

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