Eugene Domingo’s Kimmy Dora and The Temple of Kyeme opens today to expected box-office history. As possibly the most successful of imports from the legitimate stage to mainstream, Eugene or “Uge” as she is lovingly called, has remained grounded in her craft, a characteristic those trained in theater maintain to their dying day.
From her very first movie in 1991 as a housemaid in Regal’s Emma Salazar Case directed by Joey Reyes, with a talent fee of P150 to P200, Eugene looks back on those active student theater days at UP, when Regal’s Mother Lily continued to give her roles adding up to as many as 16 films to date. On television, she started with the original Valiente on ABS-CBN from 1992 to 1997. She gave substance to her role as Rowena in Ang Tanging Ina series that started in 2003. She has also set a record for appearing in six movies all in one year, produced by different producers.
This year, Eugene returns to theater as PETA adopts a thematic take on cinema for its 45th season (2012 to 2013). PETA has chosen an uncommon way “of understanding and interrogating film through live theater performances,” expounds PETA artistic director Maribel Legarda. The season opens with a stage retelling of Lino Brocka’s classic Bona, directed by Soxie Topacio, and closes with an adaptation of Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare as a satire on Filipino movies in the ’60s and ’70s, directed by Legarda.
In Bona, Eugene plays the role Superstar Nora Aunor gave life to on the big screen, an obsessive fan-turned-lover of a sleazy good-for-nothing actor played by Phillip Salvador, whom she serves with slave-like devotion until he tires of her, compelling her to retaliate in violent vengeance.
PETA’s Bona, written by Layeta Bucoy, is a comedy drama of a call-center spinster (Eugene) who is a die-hard fan of Star of Tomorrow hopeful Edgar Allan Guzman, less frenzied for sure, but we are certain just as evocative and symbolic.
Meanwhile, Eugene’s latest film, Kimmy Dora and The Temple of Kiyeme offers the much-awaited sequel to the Kimmy Dora hit of 2009. Of the original, critic Oggs Cruz had written: “To my mind, there are better recently released local comedies…but Kimmy Dora with all its unabashed nonsense and guilt-free drollery, is simply deliriously hilarious.”
Kimmy Dora and The Temple of Kiyeme presents the same cast, the same twin sisters both played by Eugene, the same writer Chris Martinez and director Bb. Joyce Bernal. In addition, it has the element of horror and ghosts, a trip to Korea to film 40 percent of the picture, not to mention shooting in below 20 degrees Korean winter, after its producer Piolo Pascual received an invitation from the Korean National Tourism to film using the major landmarks of Seoul.
During the film’s media conference, direk Joyce and Eugene spoke of the below-zero experience. Direk Joyce confessed they were close to giving it up when the camera refused to work in the freezing cold Korean winter. “I was just waiting for someone to say ‘I can no longer stand it and I’m going home,’ I would say, ‘Me, too,’” she said.
Eugene recalled that it felt like she was doing her last movie, “but many were helping us and the energy was what helped us survive.” Underlining the importance of their lead actress, direk Joyce mused, “Had Eugene shown any signs of weakening, that would be the end of the shoot.”
Small chance of that, we would think. Remember, Eugene is a theater actress. She never complains, is never late and can survive on Skyflakes and the coldest of winters. Amen.