by Lonnie Carter
[Inside] the Ford
(2580 Cahuenga Boulevard East, Hollywood 90068)
A production of PAE Live!
Date of reviewed performance: November 4, 2011
Prudencio - Antoine Reynaldo Diel
Magno Rubio - Jon Jon Briones
Atoy - Eymard Cabling
Claro - Erick Esteban
Nick - Giovanni Ortega
Clarabelle - Elizabeth Rainey
Narrator - Muni Zano
Guitar - Vincent Reyes
The Romance of Magno Rubio now in performances in English and Tagalog at the Ford Theater, is adapted from a mid-century short story by the Filipino-American writer Carlos Bulosan.
Set in 1930’s California, it centers on a fantasy love affair imagined by Magno Rubio, a hard-working, illiterate romantic. He is innocent and foolish. He is loved, protected and regularly taken advantage of by his fellow Filipino migrant workers. He is hope and idealism in the face of oppression.
This is a memory play, narrated in storyteller form by an elder version of Nick, who Magno Rubio knows as a college bound, intellectual bunkhouse mate. The elder Nick recounts aiding Magno in courting a woman from Arkansas, Clarabelle, whose picture Magno saw in a lonely hearts magazine but never met. With the help of Nick’s ability to craft words, Magno embarks on a swiftly escalating romance through the mail. With his meek earnings he buys her gifts. She demands cash and he eagerly complies. In return she sends a picture, a lock of hair and more demands. He is living an expensive delusion but is so happy in it that even his friends stop short of telling him the truth.
This is a fun and entertaining show; the play is broken up periodically by farm workers serving as chorus and comedy relief, segments of the show are spoken in Tagalog and there are some amusingly inventive dance and fight sequences. One of the show's stand-out moments comes during a slow-motion fistfight between Claro and Magno. Much of the dialogue is spoken in repetitive rhyme, supporting the fanciful storytelling mechanism put into motion by the narrator. The dialogue itself can be heavy-handed, particularly towards the end of the show, when the playwright suddenly feels as though he needs to make a political point.
The casting is superb. Giovanni Ortega's Nick is charmingly sincere in his letter-writing interactions with Magno. Erick Esteban displays some keen comic timing as Claro, who becomes a rival to Magno for Clarabelle’s attention only to cause trouble. Jon Jon Briones is terrific as the title character, exuding joy and positivity in the face of all things, even rejection and heartbreak.
The Romance of Magno Rubio runs now through December 11th. Performances on Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm are in English. Performances on Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm are in Tagalog. Tickets are $25 General Admission (Seniors/Students $12). For reservations, call 323-461-3673 or visit www.FordTheatres.org.
Directed by Bernardo Bernardo
Produced by Ed Ramolete, Paul Policarpio and Ted I. Benito
Choreography by Peter de Guzman
Fight Choreography by Felix Roiles
Sound Design by Rani de Leon
Music Director: Anthony "Gelo" Francisco
Stage Manager: Jaclyn Kalkhurst
Lighting Designer: Gerry Gregory Linsangan
Costume Design by Dori Quan
Set Design by Akeime Mitterlehner
Makeup by Joel Sabastian
Hair by Norman Salao