Senior moments
- Joy G. Virata () - March 20, 2006 - 12:00am
Talk about art mirroring life! The first rehearsals for "7 ng Umaga" were almost as hilarious as the play itself… although probably assistant director Marijke Amador would disagree. She was ready to tear her hair out, wondering in desperation if the cast would ever get their lines and blockings right. First of all, except for Liesl Batucan and Joel Trinidad, who play the relatively younger romantic leads – relative to the rest of the cast that is – the age of the cast members ranged from 50-plus to 70-plus. The snow-white hair on two of the male members was real. I am just guessing, of course, but I suspect the white hair on the female members, which was painted on for pictorials and would be painted on for the performances, would have been real, too, if nature had been allowed to show herself. Secondly, two of the cast members had not appeared on stage for 20 (or more) years, and the rest had been appearing for 20 (or more) years.

Tony Amador, also known as Bibot Amador’s little brother, last appeared on stage in Rep’s first play, Strindberg’s "Miss Julie." Rep is now in its 39th year. (I’m not saying how old he was when he did that play, but right after its run ended, he left for Paris and the Sorbonne.) Mary Barredo’s last appearance was in "Two and Two Make Sex," which coincidentally is Rep’s next play, where she played a woman in her 40s. Rep’s program lists "Two and Two Make Sex" as having been first staged in 1978. (I’m not saying she was in her 40s then. I just said she played a woman in her 40s. Ah, I also played a woman in her 40s in that production; I was in my forties, then.) She was at that time a regular Rep actress. Enchang Kaimo, returning to Rep in "The Emperor’s New Clothes" last year, was one of the original members of Rep, tasked with both on-stage and off-stage duties. Chiqui Xerez-Burgos, Jay Glorioso, Miguel Faustmann, and yours truly are what are known as "stage veterans" – in other words we have been on stage forever.

Is it a wonder then that senior moments flew fast and furious? Besides remembering lines, remembering names seemed to be the hardest task for this cast – and unfortunately the playwright seemed to be bent on including a name in practically every other sentence. Esther, Cora, Aiding, Etang – the four sisters; Caloy, Daroy, David – their spouses; Hermie – a son; and his fiancee Myrna: how was one to remember who one was talking to and whose spouse was whose?

Then, there were the houses. The play takes place in the backyards of two bahay na bato. Who lived in which house? Where was one going, and where had one come from? That took a while to digest.

Director Baby Barredo put together this motley crew because she said, "Now we can do it with good actors who are the right ages."

Rep first produced the play, originally titled "Mornings at Seven," in 1980. Following the success of Rep’s first adaptation "Whose Wife Is It Anyway," she decided to use a Filipino setting, changing names, places, and bits of dialogue. The play was originally set in a small Midwestern American town in the Forties. She now places it in Taal, Batangas in the 1920s.

"I want it to look like an Amorsolo painting," she said, and so she asked Celia Laurel (another Rep original) to do both sets and costumes.

"7 ng Umaga" revolves around four sisters with ages ranging from around 50 to 72. It deals with aging, family relationships, love, and marriage with a great deal of humor. The 40-year-old Hermie is finally bringing Myrna, his girlfriend of 12 years, to meet his parents, and this sets off a chain of events that are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and often very tender.

But the characters of this gentle comedy are what really make the play such a beautiful one. Esther, the oldest, is looked upon by her sisters as the wisest and the settler of problems and conflicts. But she is married to David, who has his own ideas about what a woman’s place should be. Cora, married to the non-confrontational Daroy, has been called "the mildest," but harbors a resentment that finally surfaces. Aiding’s husband and son are the center of her world, and she cannot understand why suddenly they don’t seem content to be there. Etang, the youngest, is the impetuous one who has kept a secret for 40 years.

The laughter over missed lines, improbable paraphrasing, outright inventions, missed cues, and confusion over names, however, had to end in the second week of rehearsals when director Baby Barredo took over. It was not wise to continue to make mistakes. But the enjoyment continued with the discovery, with each rehearsal more and more about the very human and very Pinoy characters that each of us was playing. However, sadly, a week before we were to move to Rep’s Globe Theater at Onstage in Greenbelt One, where the play is to be performed, Mary Barredo became unable to continue with the production. So Ms. (Baby) Barredo took over the role – and, of course, put us all to shame by knowing lines, cues, blocking, and names in three days!

Thus, the curtain will rise on "7 ng Umaga" (which is in English, by the way) on March 24 at 8 p.m., at Rep’s Globe Theater at Onstage with the "senior moments" hopefully confined to what are actually written into the script.
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"7 ng Umaga" is a production of Repertory Philippines Foundation Inc., Globe Telecom, Ayala Cinemas, and the City of Makati in cooperation with Diatabs.

Shows run until April 9, with Friday and Saturday shows at 8 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. For the first weekend only, senior citizen cardholders get an additional 30 percent discount aside from the regular 20 percent discount. For inquiries and ticket reservations, call the Rep office at 887-0710 and Ticketworld at 891-9999.

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