Yesterday, Speedy and I watched a play.
The play is called Joe Cool, Aplikante.
We went to see it because the technical director of the play is Alex (if you’re new here, Alex is our 17-year-old daughter, a first year college student and Technical Theater major). We’re so proud of her, we wanted to show our support and we wanted to share her joy and pride.
Personally, I wasn’t expecting anything deep and soul-searching. Alex goes to a Catholic school (actually, the only school in the country that offers a course in Technical Theater) and, knowing how controlling Catholic administrations can be, I prepared myself for a rather sweet kind of entertainment. I was so happy to be wrong. Joe Cool, Applikante was anything but sweet. It was funny and sarcastic and oozing with social relevance that was relayed without the annoying propagandist tone and language that socially relevant art is often prone to.
Joe Cool, Applikante is based on a short story by Joshua So who is also the playwright. There are only two characters in the play: Joe Cool, the job applicant, and Lyka Gurela (say the name in one breath), the receptionist/secretary/administrative assistant in the company where Joe is applying.
The plot is simple: Joe is applying and Lyka makes it hard for him. The why is revealed later when Lyka starts ranting about the six-month employment cycle and it becomes clear that she is actually interviewing her own replacement.
More than the plot, it is the characters that are quite riveting. Lyka, especially, who personifies the yuppie who tries to speak with a twang that gets mixed in too many grammatical errors (“Are you applicating?”) but who exhibits a snooty attitude just the same as though she were superior because she has a job. Somewhere during the interview where Joe accuses her of sexual harassment, she breaks down, starts a speech in straight Filipino and talks about how she has dreams too (to be someone famous and important) but had to give them up in order to earn a living.
The plot and the characters relay a rather heavy theme especially in the context of today’s realities where jobs are so scarce that college graduates often accept positions for which they are over-qualified. And yet, the play doesn’t leave you with a heavy heart and a depressing mood. It is hilarious and wicked with a fair amount of cussing and sexual innuendoes. For instance, Lyka offers Joe a snack saying, “Do you want to eat me?”
I don’t want to sound harsh — Joe Cool, Aplikante was a college production, not a professional affair. Still, I want to make a few observations which, if Alex gets to read later, I want her to understand are meant to be constructive rather than a put-down.
The production wasn’t perfect. We watched the 1.00 p.m. matinee, I understand that it was the understudies that performed and, although the actor who played Joe Cool spoke in a strong and clear voice, much was left to be desired in the speaking voice and delivery of the actress that played Lyka Gurela. The hilarious one-liners would have really brought the house down had she been more audible. But, as it was, we couldn’t hear many of her lines and we were on the front row.
The sound too was problematic. There was one instance when the microphone emitted an ear-splitting noise that happens when the volume is turned too high (overhead microphones were used). Perhaps, those clip-on mics hidden in the fold of the actors’ clothes would have been more effective.
(There was another show scheduled at 7.00 p.m. last night, Sam and her friends had tickets to that show where the lead actors, rather than the understudies, were performing. I have to ask Sam’s feedback when I see her tonight.)
All in all though, Joe Cool, Aplikante was very enjoyable. Entertaining and thought-provoking without overwhelming. I look forward to the coming productions.
UPDATE on Feb. 25 @ 12.26 a.m.
Just found out that Sam didn’t have to buy a ticket because she was in Alex’s “guest list.” Speedy and I weren’t on the “guest list” because, according to Alex, she had to sell tickets. Whoa. Ni-libre yung kapatid, kami hindi. :sad: