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The Accent Barrier: My "The Joy Luck Club" Experience

Being exposed to a lot of Chinese inspired TV shows and films, it is Regal Films "Mano Po" who captivates me with its unique way of telling stories about half-Chinese citizens who lives outside the comfort of their own country. The film spawned a lot of sequels, different stories but all telling tales about Family, Love and Culture. From then on I realize and appreciates how colorful our fellow Chinese brother and sisters's lives are. This is the reason why I become very interested with Repertory Philippines's first offering this year: The Joy Luck Club.

I was very fortunate to be invited to see The Joy Luck Club on its preview night last week. To those who don't have any idea about the show, The Joy Luck Club is a play created by Susan Kim based on the Novel of Amy Tan. It basically tells the memoirs of 4 Chinese mothers and daughters as they chronicle their lives in America as immigrants. It is a mix of bitter sweet experiences that are seasoned with tears and laughter.

Waverly Jong (Cris Villonco) talks to her mother Lindo Jong (Frances Ignacio).

The show is top billed by some of the famous names on local theater scene such as Pinky Marquez (Little Women), Cris Villonco (A Little Night Music), Frances Ignacio (Shock Value) and Jen Jamora (A Little Night Music) and under the direction of the great Anton Juan. With the cast and creative team alone, I can say that I'm already given the honor of watching a show oozing with talents that are not of the mediocre level. Given Anton Juan's reputation for being the master of perfection, everything about the show is excellence. Acting, lighting and stage design compliments each other to tell the tale of this touching piece.

Lindo Jong (Frances Makil) and An-Mei Hsu (Pinky Marquez), both new immigrants from China to San Francisco, become friends as they mock "Chinese" fortunes during their shift in a fortune cookie factory.   Just one of the scenes that I love because of the obvious reason that it is funny and probably one of the scenes that I understand very clearly.

Though personally I admit it that I have difficulties appreciating the script because of the accents. There is nothing wrong with that actually. I'm just saying that the actors are too good on playing their respective roles that I hardly understand some of the lines. The experience is like most of my encounters in Binondo where I'm always lost in translations and always ends up buying the wrong items I need.  I'm just not good on understanding English (or tagalog) with a very strong Chinese accent.

Another thing is that I'm not really familiar with Mah Jong or its cultural significance which is I believe the main device used in the play. Even the set is inspired by a big Mahjong Table and most of the props represents the tiles which is I only noticed on the end when they did that MahJong inspired poses before the curtain call.  It could be a lot better if I saw that a little bit earlier on the show but unfortunately I missed it.

Jing-Mei "June" Woo (Ana Abad Santos), visits her Joy Luck Club "aunties": Lindo Jong (Frances Ignacio), An-Mei Hsu (pinky Marquez and Ying-ying St. Claire (Jay Glorioso).
But I don't really have a difficult time getting the overall essence of the show and I do understand most of the scene because the context is perfectly delivered with excellent acting.  The message is also quite plain and simple that love can transcend time, relationship, language and differences specially between friends, family, mothers and daughters.

I will be watching the show once again later and will be giving it another shot. But I believe it is safe to say that if you are a person who can easily understand through a strong Chinese accent speakers, then you will not have difficulties appreciating the show and I'm very sure you will enjoy it.   I also highly recommend it to my Chinese friends specially those who are already embracing a very modern approach of living as this show may give you a glimpse back on how your Cultural Heritage have influenced the way of living of your elders and ancestors.

The show still runs until the 20th of February.  For ticket inquiries and other information, call Repertory Philippines at 571-6926 and 571-4941 or email info@repertory-philippines.com. Tickets also available at Ticketworld at 891-9999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph.

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