Sunday, April 02, 2006


It was an exciting line up for POMO this year. If I were to summarize it, much of the program could become it's own radio show as many of the performer's pieces were rich with language and description that could easily be done on a soundtrack.

Yerba Buena is a largest intimate stage in the Bay Area that I've seen. A flat floor with a large riser for seats, the audience is right there in front of you. The floor itself goes deep with small wings. It's a difficult floor to cover for one person. The challenge for the performers this year seemed to be to fill the space.

Janet Stickmon did a monologue embodying the stories of sexually abused persons in the Catholic Church. I always love hearing Janet's voice in a deeper alto that moves from deep and resonating to soft and supple conveying emotion in nuanced ways. The lighting started out dramatically enough, back in the stage, opening to a single circle of light right above her, harsh shadows covering her eyes and face. As the story unfolded she came closer to another single spot that drew the audience in. Some of the lighting and sound used later on confused me a bit. At one point the large stage behind her was filled with irregular patterns of red, blue and white light, followed by a rather strong music beat that distracted me from her voice and story telling. I could have either gone without the flashing light and sound or if there was some way to up the volume on Janet's voice to fill the stage as much as the light and sound did. The uneveness of the intensity of light, sound, and voice proved to pull the audience out of the story. They finally came to gether for her in the last few beats as her character came to reclaim her gods and she called them forth. By itself the final beats were quite moving, but I think could have been set off more dramatically if the staging also built into that moment. In a smaller venue, the impact of the performance would have been felt more. A difficult character and story to retell, yet Janet does so eloquently in a way that brings you in which is always her strength.

Bernie Sibayan Rosquities followed with a stand up routine. While most lament about hairs on her head, Bernie lamented over a white pubic hair. She decides that the white hair is a sign of wisdom and experience particularly for the region of the body in which she found the hair. And like much of comedy finds the tragedy and triumph in everything because in the end a girl always has "fingerella" and "BOB" (battery operated boyfriend). She continued with memories of the dating scene, which after 3 years of marriage she's grateful she doesn't have to go through anymore. A routine that is always a strong set for her, never afraid to admit that a women's crotch is a powerful place full of wisdom, and passion, and sometimes vengeance. I'm looking forward to when she lets go of the dating memories and lets us into the comedic adventures of married life a bit.

Sean San Jose along with the cast: Aureen Almario, Jonsen Vitug, Jose Flipchild Saenz, Kyle de Ocera, and Stephanie Sampang retells a tale of his uncle's murder. A set of five standing mics as the actors move in and around the mics going from individual lines to lines in chorus. Sean himself does not speak much of the dialogue, a phrase here and there, but he looks at the other actors as if observing his own memory, distant and separated. I'm glad we were sitting in the middle area as it was staged for a relatively narrow swath of light down the center which could have easily been pulled out a bit wider. The cast does an excellent job weaving their voices in and out of each other at a quickened pace with only a few lines to describe the scene and the players. At times I'm not sure whose voice or point of view I'm watching, but it doesn't really matter, as some scenarios were mirrored providing both an inside and an outside look of the scene. I felt like I was watching old radio theater, a serial that is fast paced.

I had heard alot about Regie Cabico and I have to admit even the most outrageous descriptions of him are understated compared to seeing him live. One of the few men that can say that he is on his period, is pregnant with Anthem Salgado's baby, and going through menopause at the same time, and I might actually believe him. A lively, comedic, dramatic, touching piece that brings you full circle in a story that you never knew you were in. From his days playing piano for his mother (complete with an imitation of his mother doing an imitation of Barbara Streisand singing Cats), his first heterosexual encounter in college with a side bit with the barrel man, to a very powerful final scene with Jose Flipchild Saenz conveying the phone call to his mother in which he came out to her. Regie Cabico hits you like a train, runs you over, and doesn't apologize for dragging you miles down the track! Mostly because you're laughing so hard in the aisle you're just barely hanging on to his next line. He talks a mile a minute and is dense with his comedic references and inuendo making every word count, but when he slows down you know you must enrapt yourself on his every word. When you're not looking, he hits you straight in the heart. Regie has absolutely no problems filling the stage. He is simply a ball of energy.

POMO 8 is moving on and up. The performances though open to a wide range of audiences was certainly for a 30s kind of crowd with all the references to Prince and Irene Cara. These are not the anxiety filled cultural identity pieces that marked the earlier POMOs. They are filled with more nuanced characters who do not have all the answers nor care to have them. Though not really post modern (the most post modern POMO that I saw I believe was 2-3 years ago with Gigi Otalvaro-Hormillosa), it does continue to bring to audiences engaging works. While Bindlestiff has become more of a venue for performers to get their feet wet, POMO has become the venue for seasoned performers to dive right in.

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