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A CurtainUp Review
My daughter. She is changing. She is becoming Amerikana. I think she will go to hell..— Aying
The major problem with Ralph B. Peña's Filipino-American odyssey, Flipzoids, is that we've seen it all before, in various versions, in theater and in film, with a variety of nationalities. Here's the formula: a (insert ethnicity) family moves to the United States. One family member (here it's Tina Chilip as Vangie) becomes seduced by all that is America — or what the author sweepingly defines as America: a shallow land celebrating malls, money, Gucci bags, etc. — and wants nothing to do with her homeland. Another family member: a wise, vaguely mystical older one, and often female (here it's Ching Valdes-Aran as Aying), sports some sort of spiritual umbilical cord to her motherland ("When I feel the water. . .when I touch it, it is like I am also touching my home.") Neither extreme is accurate and both are somewhat insulting.
(l-r): Ching Valdes-Aran and Tina Chilip
(Photo: Web Begole)
In Flipzoids there's also an in-betweener: a young, gay Filipino-American man named Redford (Carlo Alban) who cannot find a connection with anyone. His only human associations are derived, improbably, from sitting in a derelict beach men's room toilet, attempting to converse with men on the other side of his stall.
As you might guess, the young unconnected Redford also has some vague, unarticulated longings for a homeland he's never seen. You see, he doesn't know who he is; that's why he hangs around in bathroom stalls. The old lady steps in to help him out. There are the requisite innocent humorous misunderstandings. It's all precious, sentimental, and, sometimes unbearably cloying.
Loy Arcenas' set is smart and crisp. The action takes place in the mid 1980s, within and on the outer perimeter of a kind of sandbox, meant to represent a beach in Anaheim, California, where the transplanted old lady spends her days.
The acting in Flipzoids, a play that's been floating around since 1996, is largely mediocre with the glaring exception of that of Ms. Valdes-Aran, who steals the show as Aying. She's a solid actor who makes the best of the triteness and endless clichés that Mr. Peña forces into her mouth.
In the end, Flipzoids just doesn't really try. Pulling heartstrings is not enough; those strings should be connected to something other than the audience's patience and good will.
By Ralph B. Peña
Directed by Loy Arcenas
Cast: Carlo Albán (Redford), Tina Chilp (Vangie), Ching Valdes-Aran (aying)
Design: Loy Arcenas
Lighting Design James Vermeulen
Sound Design: Fabian Obispo & Chris Schardin
Production Manager: Layhoon Tan
Running Time: 90 minues, no intermission
From 1/11/11; opening 1/18/11; closing 2/06/11
Performance schedule as in Tues-to Sat @ 7:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 3p.m.
Reviewed by William Coyle, based on January 13 performance
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