Title: Kung Paano Maghiwalay
Cast: Stella Cañete-Mendoza, Juliene Mendoza, Renante Bustamante, Carlo Cruz, Rachelle Gimpes, Mara Paulina Marasigan, Victor Medina, Sheena Ramos, Paul Jake Paule, Gabs Santos, Sarina Sasaki, Lian Silverio, Andrea Tatad, Floyd Tena, Affy Varona, Andrei Vegas, Teetin Villanueva
Writer/Director: George de Jesus III
Producer: The Egg Theater Company
Duration: 1.5 hours
Review In A Nutshell:
Kung Paano Maghiwalay, despite its ominous title, is an earnest and witty play about love, heartbreak and the pain of separation; something that must be experienced, like most relationships, not just once but as much as one can.
This review may contain spoilers.
I have found almost everything ever written about love to be true. Shakespeare said, “journeys end in lovers meeting.” Oh, what an extraordinary thought! Personally, I have not experienced anything remotely close to that, but I am more than willing to believe Shakespeare had. I suppose I think about love more than anyone really should. I am constantly amazed by its sheer power to alter and define our lives. It was Shakespeare who also said, “love is blind”. Now that is something I know to be true.
Kate Winslet as Iris Simpkins
As I continue my quest to watch more local theatrical productions this year, I found myself watching Kung Paano Maghiwalay, a full-length play that piqued my interest because I learned that Aiza Seguerra used this to propose to Liza Diño. Hmm… A play that showcases heartbreak and separation… Hmm…
I knew nothing about the play aside from that trivia, its ominous title and one cast member (who I will reveal later) that I have wanted to see on stage for quite some time. When I sat on the front row during its opening weekend, I had no expectations but I was prepared to cry my eyes out. Almost two hours after, I left Pineapple Lab with a yearning to see it again, which I did. Did I cry? Yes but not just for reasons most people would think of.
At the core of Kung Paano Maghiwalay is love, heartbreak and the pain of separation. The play was told in vignettes featuring characters that were interconnected and narrated in a non-linear format. Its two acts were markedly contrast: the first half’s staging was bright and colorful yet the words were riddled with hurt and sadness while the last half was bleak and gray yet the exchange was open and positive.
Kung Paano Maghiwalay showcased all forms of love – romantic, LGBT, friendship, family – except one I’m most familiar with: unrequited love. It made sense really since there’s no separation from that kind of love, but it’s painful nonetheless. With that pain, I was able to find bits and pieces of my own failed love stories, of what if’s and regrets, in the play. I cried especially during its pivotal moments but surprisingly found myself laughing for most of it. The play’s ominous title may be feared by those who have loved and lost, that it may open old wounds. I can tell you this: there’s healing in realization. Also, hope springs eternal especially with love.
An Earnest Portrayal
Kung Paano Maghiwalay succeeded in its earnest portrayal of love in all its forms and stages. George de Jesus III created a gem in this play; it was bittersweet, funny and relatable. There was ease in the transition between its dramatic and comedic parts. There were no dull moments and the reaction from the audience was sincere. The stage is minimal yet fluid especially with its set pieces. I especially loved those boxes filled with graffiti of “hugot” lines. The music used was a nice backdrop and it blended well with each scene. Since I watched it twice, I was able to notice some changes (most glaring would be the bed) but these were minor enough and did not take anything away from it.
Although I saw the play twice, I almost had the same roster of actors. Almost in the sense that I saw two different actors portraying Ferdz: Floyd Tena during my first, Renante Bustamante during my second. However, what I liked about them was their heartfelt performance. I also loved that the actors were spontaneous and quick to improvise when needed (especially with the drinks). While each actor shone on stage, there were four who stood out for me:
Teetin Villanueva played Lou, a lesbian trying to maintain her composure as she finally goes through the last stage of her separation with Kat. Her portrayal of a calculated, control-freak individual with an appointment-driven life had the right balance of restraint and emotion. Teetin was able to beautifully navigate through Lou’s facets: Kat’s long-time partner, Ferdz and Hector’s friend, Dino’s sister, and Ben and Anita’s daughter. It reminded me of Anna Torv’s Olivia Dunham during Fringe Season 1 and 2 (if you haven’t seen this series, I highly suggest you do so now). I was looking forward to seeing her on stage, having missed her most recent performances (both musicals), and she did not disappoint.
Lian Silverio was another standout for me. He played Erwin, a gay who easily fell in love with Ferdz during one of the play’s bleakest moments. His parts were essentially one of, if not, the funniest. Lian portrayed Erwin effortlessly; he was a treat to watch. There was one point during my second viewing that he almost broke character but he quickly caught himself and improvised as if it was all part of the script. I loved those moments as it showcased how difficult stage acting can be since there are no retakes.
If you were one of those who left the play with red eyes like me, blame it on theater veterans and real-life married couple, Stella Cañete-Mendoza and Juliene Mendoza. Stella and Juliene played Anita and Ben respectively, a couple married for more than two decades, who found themselves questioning their commitment to each other, if it was still bound by love and not just obligation, and still scarred with the vestiges of the latter’s attempt to be with another woman. Among all the play’s vignettes, this is the one I can relate to the most since I have parents who have been married for forty years and exhibit the usual behaviors seen in most old couples their age. When I first saw the play, I think I did an almost ugly cry during the play’s climax that I was so glad I wore waterproof mascara. As soon as I thought that I was safe from a cry fest, there came another one in the end. Remember watching Jollibee’s hugot videos, Vow and Date? That kind of pain. Stella and Juliene were so amazing that I had to tell them after the play, the second time I watched, I loved them both and I blame them for my tears.
At the play’s last curtain call, the audience were treated with an announcement of a re-run! This is good news for those who have yet to see it (and maybe even those who would like to see it again). If you want to watch an earnest and witty play about love and relationships, heartbreak and the pain of separation, go see Kung Paano Maghiwalay. Take it from someone who has seen it twice; it is worth your while.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
My Two Cents:
Catch the play when it returns next year, on February 2018 no less. Not sure where The Egg Theater Company will stage it but if it still going to be at Pineapple Lab, it’ll be cool since I love venues with an indie feel. Just prepare your hearts to be broken and re-built at the same time.
This is not a sponsored blog post. Like my other reviews, I purchased a ticket and saw the play.
Images featured here can be found in The Egg Theater Company’s Facebook Page. Other images featured are my own.