"Do you like it in America?" 70-year-old recent immigrant from the Philippines Aying (played by Obie award-winning actress Ching Valdes-Aran) and her new friend and teenage flip Redford (played by former "Sesame Street" child actor Carlo Albán) had been truthful enough to admit that they didn't seem to like much America. Aying's daughter Vangie (played by young Asian American thespian Tina Chilip) had thought otherwise -- these clashing personal views on family, relationships and cultural assimilation are bluntly thrown at you in Ma-Yi Theater Company's first revival of its critically-acclaimed one act play "Flipzoids". Written by Ralph B. Peña and directed and designed by Loy Arcenas, the production runs through Sunday, February 6, 2011 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater of the Playwrights Horizon (416 W 4nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues).
As a visiting Filipino student at New York University who arrived in the big city last two weeks myself, I'm thankful to have been able to pick up a thing or two from the odd friendship between Aying and Redford: In times that you desperately miss the Philippines, remind yourself that "you've never left home because you've brought home in you." Nuggets of wisdom that could easily psyche up someone like me to keep going but also to keep looking back -- looking back brings out the memories that have made you who you are right now, and who you want to be tomorrow.
This restaging of "Flipzoids" had made it possible for Filipino-American Broadway actress Valdes-Aran to revisit the role that earned her an acting nod at the Obie Awards fifteen years ago. Her Aying is an endearingly opinionated central character. She tells her parable-like native anecdotes with unquestionable charm and sly humor. She could put you into a trance as she paints vividly the simple way of life in her small fishing town of Pagudpud. She could make any Filipino audience member homesick in an instant.
Meanwhile, non-Filipino Ecuadorian film and theatre actor Albán has been an inspired casting choice. As the social misfit Redford -- who had so little personal recollection of the Philippines because his family had to immigrate to the United States when he was only seven years old -- Albán's ethnic background had made his take on the role so naturally confused and bewildered to Aying's infectious attachments to her home country.
Chilip's acculturized character (Vangie) has been obviously underwritten compared to Valdes-Aran (Aying) and Albán's (Redford) delightfully dysfunctional stage roles. However, Chilip also had her share of the spotlight in the show, especially during her scene with Valdes-Aran at a mall in Anaheim, California.
"Flipzoids", set in a deserted "red cove" at Laguna beach in Southern California way back in1985, allows an elderly woman who's originally from Pagudpud in Northern Philippines and a juvenile oddball who's flaunting a short, bleached-blonde hairdo "strike an uneasy friendship as they attempt to reconcile their contrasting perspectives of home".
The play had its world premiere at the Theater for a New City in 1996. It also had performances at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila in 1998.
"Flipzoids" at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater features lighting design by James Vermeulen, sound design by Fabian Obispo, production stage management by Danielle Buccino, public relations by Sam Rudy Media Relations. It is produced by Suzette Porte for the Ma-Yi Theater Company.
For last week tickets (Tues. to Sat. at 7:30 p.m. and Sat. to Sun. at 3:00 p.m.), visit www.ticketcentral.com or call 212-279-4200. Tickets at US$40 each. Pay what you want on last Wed. performance.