Acceptance, inner conflicts in ‘Si Chris, Claire Ug Merci’

By Stephen D. Capillas September 15,2017

The cast of “Si Chris, Claire Ug Merci”

IT’S been days since the three-act stage play “Si Chris, Claire Ug Merci” had its IT’S been days since the three-act stage play “Si Chris, Claire Ug Merci” had its final performance at the Artist’s Hall in Benedicto College, Mandaue City and yet, it’s worth writing about if only to encourage more local playwrights, both aspiring and veteran, to write more plays and draw more Cebu-based residents to develop appreciation for and eventual patronage to the theater, specifically local theater.

So here in a nutshell was what the play is about: “Si Chris, Claire Ug Merci” is a thoughtful, gently probing look into the lives of three ordinary Cebuanos who deal with their own issues on unrequited passion, unresolved family conflict and fears of non-acceptance, hostility and ridicule from a community that still harbors reservations on homosexuality.

I was able to catch the final performance after failing to catch the first two held in another venue and the third staging held at Benedicto College.

And based on the audience reaction alone, I think those who watched it—a large number of whom are college students—are appreciative of the themes and message being imparted by the playwright, Josh Eballe.

Since last Sunday’s staging was the final performance, I guess it won’t be spoiler territory to disclose details about the three-act play.

Whether it will hold repeat performances in the future or not is up to the production outfit, OurHouse Productions.

The first part entitled “Dinhi Nalang Ba Kutob Ang Tanan” focuses on the playwright Chris and a stage actor friend named Paul who rehearse a play on a relationship gone wrong only to end with the actor confessing his feelings for Chris, whose silence may either indicate rejection, refusal or fear of what these feelings may mean to him and Paul—yes, it’s a gay love story.

The second act “Ang Tulo Ka Panagway Ni Claire” tells the story of a young successful female professional named Claire whose seemingly placid life hides unresolved anger and hostility towards her late mother and how that prevented her from attending her burial.

At first I was confused how the actress who played Claire, Rachel Layaog, didn’t look towards Carlos whom she was talking to until I learned of the second act’s title which suggested that she had conflicting personalities.

True enough those personalities identified as Carlos and Cassandra, engaged in a heated confrontation, a war even, for Claire’s self/soul.

Sadly, it ended with Claire emotionally wrought and broken, albeit temporary I guess with no resolution in sight.

Thankfully the third act “Pit Senyor Kay Merci Kini,” recounts a happy tale with an even happier ending that is set amid the backdrop of Cebu City’s famed Sinulog celebration. Then again, it probably won’t do to tell sad Sinulog stories.

Its lead, Merci (played by Eballe), a transgender, engages in heart-felt talks with her father and her playful suitor, about her fears of ridicule and hostility from a largely conservative neighborhood that still finds it difficult to accept her for what she is.

Again, the first two acts had open, cliffhanger endings with the principal leads finding no resolution or closure to their problems while the third act ended with the parties concerned at least finding peace and acceptance of their situation.

Amid its semi-philosophical musings about life in its opening monologue, in between acts and its ending, “Si Chris, Claire Ug Merci” benefits from using the Cebuano language and local settings to convey universal themes and issues of unrequited passion (“Dinhi Nalang Ba Kutob Ang Tanan”), the struggle to find closure and to confront one’s personal demons and resolve inner conflict (“Ang Tulo Ka Panagway Ni Claire”) and love of family and one another prevailing despite gender and generational differences (“Pit Senyor Kay Merci Kini”).

As someone with a middling exposure to theater and the arts, I found it easy to be entertained and to think about what these three separate, yet somehow interconnected stories mean to me and its intended audience.

“Si Chris, Claire Ug Merci” makes people ponder without challenging or confronting them on their life views and in a time of dark and gritty films, this is a welcome respite.

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