Millennials’ memorable monologues
Mirava M. Yuson (The Philippine Star) - October 17, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - If this were the 1970s, a title like “No Filter” would be a catchphrase for an edgy tobacco commercial. But in this day and age, it’s just one of the many phrases used to announce one’s decision to go au naturel with one’s looks in online images, with no editing whatsoever (supposedly). No Filter, the play, attempts to do just that, as the latest, no-holds-barred original production of Sandbox Collective, which brought to Manila for the first time Dani Girl and The Imaginarium last year.

The collection of monologues draws on the communal experiences of what it’s like to be a millennial. To get a few hashtags out of the way, a “millennial” includes anyone who was born in the 1980s up to the early 2000s. There is no precise age range, but what No Filter makes abundantly clear within the first few seconds is this: the typical millennial is over-reliant on technology, and treats it simultaneously like the bane of existence, as well as the godsend that unites an entire generation worldwide.

The audience gets to follow dozens of characters (described simply as “twenty-somethings”), each with their own stories to tell. In between are skits, parody commercials and comedy sketches thrown into the mix, to sum up the underlying nature of millennials: leaping from one thing to the next, without any boundaries whatsoever. The production’s original run took place in July this year (which, unfortunately, I did not catch), but public demand spurred the creation of a revamped, expanded version, which now features a lot more characters and tales.

New monologues have been added, and others have been polished, to produce a diverse set of stories that range from relatable to poignant and even unlikely, albeit hilarious. But here’s the catch: you have to brush up on your social media lexicon terms, because Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, Viber and even Friendster are just a few of many brand names that get namedropped a mile a minute. And that’s not including the dozens of acronyms, some of which even I have never heard of (guess I’m a faulty millennial in that regard), plus many odes to pop icons (both local and international).

The expanded cast now includes Paolo Valenciano, Sam Concepcion and Carla Humphries, who have joined originals Cai Cortez, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Mikael Daez, Sarah Facuri, Khalil Kaimo, Saab Megalona-Bacarro, Micah Muñoz and Lauren Young. Each one plays a multitude of characters — all millennials, of course — and each is challenged to individualize their roles within 10 to 15 minutes of material, and with minimal costume changes to boot.

While some skits are more successful than others in this regard, notable cast members include Cortez and Facuri who leap into second, third and fourth skins without hesitation, triggering uproarious laughter from the audience with their rapid-fire delivery. Khalil Kaimo expertly gathers sympathy with his sheepish grins as he handles the more inhibited “Aw, shucks” types.

Everyone gets to be purposely self-indulgent, but not overly so, avoiding an accidental crossover into the realm of full-blown annoying. The unavoidable “Me-me-me”-ing and “Meme”-ing is buffered by little nuggets of wisdom occasionally dropped here and there. For the most part, it works: there are enough valuable truth bombs to balance out the inane, and shallowness was emphasized mostly for comedic purposes to help maintain momentum.

That the play focuses on people as people, and not simply as allegories for stock characters of X gender or sexuality, for example, makes for a nice touch. Like a modernized version of Canterbury Tales, each character represents a particular phenomenon associated with millennials. As such, the views of increasingly progressive eras (even though there is still a long, long way to go, admittedly) are manifested by putting the focus less on coming-out stories, for example, preferring to touch on issues that frustrate the gay youth of today — that the love of their life is completely oblivious, because apparently they’re not being obviously gay enough.

There are tidbits concerning death, friendship, the rat race of work, EDSA (yes, it gets a category all its own); but the most popular topic is the perpetual distress felt when managing a social media presence. We get interesting insights about the costs of having to maintain one, and how the sabotage of any online account can completely derail a real life. However, propping up those situations are backstories for several characters that seem oddly similar, resulting in a limited perspective that prioritizes, most of all: partying, alcoholism, casual sex and Bachelor of Arts degrees.

Apparently, a lot of millennials remain the tireless social climbers every other generation accuses them of being. And the bulk of millennials are really just frustrated artists, it seems. But this stereotype, which the play is aiming to deconstruct, is over-represented everywhere else, even here. More monologues have been added since the initial run, but it would have been interesting to delve into the psyche of the more introverted millennial — what about online gamers, or people in fandoms, for instance? After all, one of the more memorable monologues centered on a frequent occurrence, but one not normally talked about: a Zamboangan boy moving to Metro Manila and his struggles in trying to relate to both places.

The play celebrates both the good and evil of being a millennial. It highlights beautifully that millennials, for all their obsession with living in the present (in 1990 this was “Carpe diem; in 2013, it’s “Yolo”) , happen to have a huge weakness: nostalgia. So, lessons learned? As the lights came back on at the end of the play, they were accompanied by the flicker of cellphone screens as millennials in the crowd stepped back into their own dimension without a second thought.

* * *

No Filter is directed by Toff De Venecia and will continue its run in Power Mac Center Spotlight (Circuit Makati) today at 8 p.m., Oct. 23 (Friday) at 8 p.m., Oct. 24 (Saturday) at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Oct. 25 (Sunday) at 3 p.m. For tickets, contact TicketWorld at 891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph.

Khalil Kaimo tells his own version of a series of events, in the monologue series within a monologue series, “About Last Night” in No Filter 2.0.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT ACIRC BACHELOR OF ARTS CAI CORTEZ CANTERBURY TALES CIRCUIT MAKATI CORTEZ AND FACURI KHALIL KAIMO NO FILTER ONE QUOT
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