Woman From the Other Side of the World

Linda Faigao-Hall has fashioned a thoroughly involving serio-comic tale of an expatriate Filipina attempting to live the yuppie good life in Manhattan while struggling to suppress the horrific, soul-searing memories of her former life in her native country. Director Alberto Isaac exhibits a keen understanding of the playwright's motivations and intentions, guiding a superb ensemble through a seamless integration of ritual and myth, reality and farce, fantasy and truth. Isaac is aided immeasurably by the exquisite set and lighting designs of Patrick Plamondon and Rae Creevey, respectively, and the beautifully surreal sound and motions of the Kayamanan Ng Lahi Philippine Folk Arts troupe. Faigao-Hall has created a complex and memorable character in driven career woman Emilya (Allison Sie), struggling to balance the demands of her job and the needs of her 10-year-old Americanized son, Jason (Tony Johns), while maintaining an emotional distance from the romantic pressure emanating from her latest lover, George (Burt Bulos). Supplying comic relief to her life are the misadventures of her Filipina friend, Isabel (Beverly Sotelo), a former poet who has not yet adjusted to the lifestyle of the big city.

With:
Allison Sie (Emilya), Tony Johns (Jason), Beverly Sotelo (Isabel), Marilyn Tokuda (Ines), Burt Bulos (George).

Everyone’s life is changed forever when Emilya’s Philippine-based brother sends her Ines (Marilyn Tokuda), a “yaya” (nanny) to look after Jason. This deceptively simple peasant woman is in reality an “ungo” (witch) who uses her powers to instill in Jason a sense of his heritage and his own identity. Along the way, she manages to exorcise the deeply rooted emotional demons that have been stifling the lives of Emilya, Isabel and George.

Sie is absolutely believable as the coolly aristocratic Emilya whose monstrously debilitating memories are slowly eating away at her ability to know happiness in her own life and to guide the life of her son. Exuding a ferocious sense of superiority, Sie’s Emilya makes tangible the centuries of class distinction that separate her from Ines. Just as effectively, Sie displays the raw disintegration of Emilya’s facade as she finally reveals to George the truth of her life with Jason’s deceased father.

Tokuda’s Ines exhibits a captivating balance of simplicity, humor and attention-riveting intelligence. No matter what her onstage activity, she appears to be absorbing and evaluating every aspect of the behavior of the people around her.

Sotelo manages to be both fragile and comedic as the “blocked” poet, Isabel, who is too needy and insecure to disregard Ines’ supernatural powers. Bulos is quite effective as the outwardly handsome and successful Manhattanite who yearns for the ethnic identity that Emilya rejects. And Tony Johns quite admirably handles Jason’s inherent dissatisfaction of being a child without a culture.

Special mention must be made of Kayamanan Ng Lahi, choreographed by Barbara J. Ele, who bring to life the mysticism and magic of Ines’ spells.

Woman From the Other Side of the World

East West Players, Los Angeles; 99 seats; $23 top; Opened and reviewed June 5, 1997

Production: East West Players presents a play in two acts by Linda Faigao-Hall, directed by Alberto Isaac

Creative: sets, Patrick Plamondon; costumes, Dori Quan; lighting, Rae Creevey; sound design, Nathan Wang. Ritual/dance by Kayamana Ng Lahi: musical director, Leonilo "Boy" Angos; choreography, Barbara J. Ele. Opened and reviewed June 5, 1997; runs until July 13. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Cast: Allison Sie (Emilya), Tony Johns (Jason), Beverly Sotelo (Isabel), Marilyn Tokuda (Ines), Burt Bulos (George).

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