Arts & Culture

A reconciliation dinner like no other

Audiences from various political fences can easily relate to The Reconciliation Dinner by Floy Quintos.

He is the same playwright who gave us an equally compelling play The Kundiman Party complete with real life pianist and almost true-to-life voice lessons from a retired diva who cannot reconcile her art with local politics. 

The voice students are gone in The Reconciliation Dinner but political undertones are heavy with true to life irreconcilable election results.

Scene from The Reconciliation Dinner by Floy Quintos. Superb acting ensemble.

The red followers are cheering.

The pink army is too shocked to see results too good to be true.

In the Quintos play, we are confronted with two couples from two opposing political camps.

The Medinas (Stella Canete Mendoza and Bert Medina) invite the Valderamas (Frances Makil-Ignacio and JoJo Cayabyab) to an intimate dinner presumably as a peace offering. It is meant to reconcile friends after their fiery election involvements.

(Needless to say, the play also divided its audiences. More than half were rooting for the Valderamas and one couldn’t find an audience cheering the playing of the Bagong Lipunan Hymm which is the household anthem of the Medinas.)

As it turned out, the dinner yielded erstwhile friendly couples eventually exchanging bitter political exchange.

You could see that the audience could deeply relate.

They cheered the pink couple and derided the election winner.

The playwright Floy Quintos (second from left) with theater fans. As timely as the last elections.

True, the play is well written and the acting ensemble superb and the direction by Dexter Santos left nothing to be desired.

What makes the one hour and a half play highly engaging is that it is timely for those who won and lost in the last presidential elections.

Alas, after several moments of truth about the country’s political system, the Quintos play ended up a requiem to our rotten political system.

True enough, the play is the state of the nation as seen from the looking glass of the country’s middle class.

(The only time the representative of the lower class is mentioned is when one of the characters intoned, “Hindi tayo ordinaryong Filipino, ang ordinaryong Filipino walang tiramisu cake sa dinner.”)

At best, the play is a reflection of middle-class pretensions. At best, it is social facade and of friendship and principles based on exchange of cupcakes and empty reconciliation dinner.

As one has said earlier, it is a well-written play. But beyond good writing, the play is an indictment of the same system that tolerates election fraud and state forces involved in mass killing and drug operations.

The audiences cheered when they heard lines that sounded like something from an overseas commencement speaker talking about the computer-generated election win.

For the first time, one felt that what one has paid for the gold ticket and souvenir program was well worth every cent of one’s hard-earned money.

The play is an engrossing election redux with superb acting from actors playing the Medinas and the Valderamas.

One could single out other equally superb actors (Nelsito Gomez as Ely, Mica Pineda as Mica and Phil Palmos as Norby) who balanced the seemingly untenable political stance of the Medinas and the Valderamas.

Moreover, the play poses the question one would like to ask after the hue and cry over elections results.

Are people happy a year after the elections?

Should we just move on in the name of acceptance and ‘dignity’?

The play should be staged in Iloilo City where Ilonggo voters (like this traumatized voter) are still recovering from the trauma of the last elections.

The perfect setting is Iloilo City’s Nelly Garden where the former first lady and the first woman president shared a guest room at different times of their colorful political lives. 

Perfect setting for The Reconciliation Dinner of Floy Quintos: The Nelly Garden in Iloilo City. Photo by Floyd Evangelista Flores.

Nelly Garden is also perfect setting for another Floy Quintos play, The Kundiman Party.

Less opulent venue for subsequent performances can be scheduled at the University of the Philippines Visayas also in Iloilo City.

The elegant mansion in Jaro district is owned by businessman and philanthropist Don Vicente Lopez and Elena Hofilena. It has a colorful life linked with music and the city’s illustrious past.

The heritage house was built in 1928 on the same decade the Manila Symphony Orchestra was born in 1926. The mansion was only a year old when violinist Gilopez Kabayao was born in Fabrica, Negros Occidental in 1929.

Named after the eldest daughter Nelly, the heritage house became a historic venue for reunion of Iloilo’s music and arts lovers when world-acclaimed Cecile Licad opened a concert series on November 29, 2018 with an all-Chopin recital that earned three standing ovations.

In its lifetime, Nelly Garden served as a venue for receptions and meetings with Governor-Generals of the Philippines including Frank Murphy and Teddy Roosevelt Jr., Thailand’s Prince Chupra, former first lady Imelda Marcos and late president Cory Aquino.

Watch the Reconciliation Dinner (May 26-27 at 3 and 8 p.m.) on its last weekend at Black Box Theater Circuit Lane, Circuit Makati).