After the big M, are you still hot?

- John L. Silva () - April 2, 2006 - 12:00am
Everything’s coming out these days.
From Vagina Monologues to Brokeback Mountain. No topic is taboo anymore and in a way, life’s become a lot more revealing and honest.

Take We’re Still Hot, this incredible off-Broadway musical that’s showing these days. It’s about women facing menopause and all the travails that go with it. When I was younger and mom snapped at me for the smallest thing, or when she went into her funk, I’d ask my sisters and they’d shush me like it was a dirty secret. Much, much later, I realized mom was going through menopause and it seemed so stupid now thinking I could have just given her a big hug and a kiss and let her be. If I knew then what I know now.

We’re Still Hot
is no clinical explanation of menopause. That would be boring. It’s three middle-aged women getting together for a class reunion and, as their contribution, staging a musical about…what else?

They need a fourth member for the play and the school’s janitress, a Hungarian immigrant (played by Nina Romualdez) is recruited. She may be mopping floors in the States but she was a famous actress back home.

There’s the businesswoman (Shamaine Centenera) who likes young hunks. There’s the forever hippy (Lynn Sherman) who wrote the musical but is plagued with self-esteem issues. And there’s the ex-soprano (Pinky Marquez) who bagged her singing career to be a good suburban mother. Her husband, who we never see onstage, is later found out to have screwed everyone, literally and figuratively. Including the Hungarian diva. Implausible but it adds to the mayhem.

It’s the singing and the songs that grabbed me. All of them sung with such gusto and verve. Clear as an LP with haunting lyrics that traipse through thoughts about getting older, looking older, being mortal and finding love. You have to hand it to the casting director for choosing the perfect combination of actress and singer. Sherman, who plays the hippy, turns out to be a jazz singer in real life and Romualdez was with an all-female singing group from way back.

When producer Margie Moran saw the musical in New York last year, she knew it would go well in the Philippines. The singing already is a local passion. The subject matter and everything surrounding it is what will resonate in many and not just women.

Menopause was just the excuse. You could Google it or check Wikipedia and learn everything about it. The subject is the launch pad for many more things unsaid and unrequited. While the play-within-the-play is happening onstage, there’s also the inner drama in me. I’ve hung out with only strong women all my life, including my mother and their strength has usually been their bitter fate.

To be decisive and independent means men will avoid you. To question an unfair relationship is to lose it. To be truthful to oneself is to be lonely. The actresses are acting the "to-be’s" and I see so many real-life composites on stage. That’s why when ex-soprano can’t take her philandering-asshole of a husband no more and belts a freedom song while undergoing a physical transformation – from prim to ravishing – the audience is enraptured. And not just the women.

This is a feel-good musical and heaven knows, we need a lot of "feel-goods" these days. It’s also, inadvertently, a bonding intro. Another woman friend had watched the play, loved it, and several days later we were talking. I was curious and asked if she’d already reached the big M. Right there and then she admitted she was in the thick of it explaining what she was going through. This was the first time she had ever talked about it because her women friends weren’t confessing.

I gave her a double-strong hug when we said goodbye. One for her, and the other for my mom who would have appreciated it rather than feeling like a pariah.

Go see the show. You’ll love your women friends even more.
* * *
We’re Still Hot is currently showing at the Teatrino Theater, Promenade, Greenhills. For performance schedules through April, call 722-4532, local 116. Tickets available at Ticketworld and Music Museum.

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