Late last year, BakitWhy.com had the opportunity to screen and review a live performance of “The Romance of Magno Rubio / Ang Romansa ni Magno Rubio” presented by PAE Live! at the Ford Theatres. Lonnie Carter's OBIE award-winning play is a high-energy stage adaptation of Carlos Bulosan's short story about a love struck Pilipino migrant worker in 1930’s California. The play uses clever word play, rhymes and Philippine love songs ("kundimans"), to reveal the lives of migrant workers, their struggles and longings for home and a better life.
“The Romance of Magno Rubio” tells the story of the titular character Magno Rubio, played by veteran stage actor Jon Jon Briones, who is a modest man full of optimism and big dreams. His compares, Claro (Erick Esteban - English, Gelo Francisco - Tagalog), Prudencio (Antoine Reynaldo Diel), and Atoy (Eymard Cabling – English, Jet Montelibano - Tagalog), mock his love for the “six-foot, 200 pound” Clarabelle (Elizabeth Rainey), while they, too, relentlessly pursue the promises of the American Dream. Nick (Giovanni Ortega - English, Frederick Edwards - Tagalog) the only person who takes Magno seriously, helps Magno woo Clarabelle, whom he has never met, by writing letters for him. The intergenerational quality of the play, represented by Muni Zano’s role of narrator as the older Nick, makes it appealing and accessible to a wide age range, in addition to providing English and Tagalog language showings.
When the 33rd annual LA Weekly Theater Awards list of nominees was released, honoring the best work from 2011on the small stage, “The Romance of Magno Rubio” was nominated for 5 categories! These included Best Ensemble, Leading Male Performance (Jon Jon Briones), Choreography (Peter De Guzman), Fight Choreography (Jon Jon Briones/Felix Roiles), and Director (Bernardo Bernardo). Additionally, Pilipino Americans Ramon DeOcampo (Supporting Male Performance - The Malcontent, Antaeus Company) and Nick Salamone (Play Writing - The Sonneteer, Davidson/Valenti Theatre at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center) were also nominated.
Just days after Johnny Itliong
and the Itliong Family received the Larry Itliong Resolution
from Assemblyman Alan Alejo at the California State Capital on Cesar Chavez Day
, theater critics judged Magno Rubio to be the winner of two different LA Weekly Theater Awards; Bernardo Bernardo
nabbed the Best Director
award while Peter De Guzman
won for Best Choreography
What a tremendous achievement for the Pilipino-American community; not just in the sense that the wonderful talents of our artists are being appreciated, but by the fact that our stories (especially those of our Manongs) are being told, and are being heard by the mainstream!
*Picture Courtesy of Jon Lawrence Rivera
Left to Right: Actor Gelo Franciso, Producer Ed Ramolete, Associate Producer Lorely Trinidad, Actor Jon Jon Briones (nominee for Fight Choreography), Actor Jet Montelibano, Actor Antoine Diel, Actor Erick Esteban, Actor Eymard Cabling