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by | May 4, 2024 | Review | 0 comments

The actors in this premiere production of playwright Kamila Sediego’s Homecoming are treating the characters — and the project — with a level of respect that’s a pleasure to witness.

Sediego’s script is about the effect of emigration on three generations of Filipinas. Laying the story out in a linear fashion, which the play doesn’t always do, it starts with Eleanora, who is struggling to get by in the Philippines with her two daughters, Tess and the younger Vicky. When Tess grows into womanhood, she emigrates to Canada; Vicky feels abandoned and becomes embittered. Tess’s plan to return to the Philippines is put on hold — and stays there — when she becomes a single mother to Ana. Early in the show, Ana talks to her phone: “Hey Siri, teach me how to be Filipino.”

The play isn’t particularly plot-driven, but its scenes are full of detail, and often resonance. When Eleanora is teaching her two young kids how to scale fish, for instance, she gives specific instructions. But the weight of their father’s absence — he left the country to work and never came home — drives the necessity of self-reliance. When Tess gets frustrated with scaling, Eleanora responds tensely, “Your whole live, don’t give up. Promise.”

There’s a lot of easy humour. In another scene that takes place in the same period, Vicky pitches a scheme to her big sister, a plan about selling a pork product. Referring to the operation, Vicky says, “You’ll be the face. I’ll be the brains behind the face. Together, we’ll make a whole head.”

Director Hazel Venzon could hardly have found a better cast. Playing Eleanora, Aura Carcueva seems to emanate light: she is pure, plucky charm. Carmela Sison’s Tess is still but responsive, the ground, in a way, upon which this story is built. Lissa Neptuno leans into stereotype a bit as the younger Vicky, but she is immersively committed throughout and she nails both the humour and pain of Vicky’s older iteration. Playing Ana, Rhea Cosido covers a whole lot of emotional territory, and her work is always impressively natural and unforced.

Because of the strengths of these performances and the pleasures of individual scenes, for a long time I didn’t care that I wasn’t following a more traditionally structured narrative, but then I began to sense that Sediego was struggling to find the ending. Trying to stick the landing, she ends Homecoming three times, resorts to explanatory scenes, and forces a climax. If Sediego continues to work on this script, I encourage her to give us a clearer, more concrete sense of the struggle that leads Tess to leave the Philippines, how that process affects Vicky, how — in present-time experience — the sisters’ estrangement grows, and how Ana’s out-of-wedlock birth affects all this. These elements are all present in the current draft, but none are richly developed through time.

That said, I admire much of the work that has already gone into Homecoming. I enjoyed spending time with these women.

HOMECOMING by Kamila Sediego. Directed by Hazel Venzon. On Friday, May 3. Produced by Urban Ink and presented by The Cultch. Running in The Cultch’s Historic Theatre until May 12 as part of the Femme Festival. Tickets and information for The Cultch run. From May 14 to 18, Homecoming will transfer to Coquitlam’s Evergreen Centre. Here’s where to find tickets and information for the Evergreen run.

PHOTO CREDIT: Lissa Neptuno, Aura Carcueva, and Carmela Sison (Photo by Moonrider Productions)


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Copyright ©2024 Colin Thomas. All rights reserved.