Saturday, August 1, 2015

PDI Review: 'No Filter: Let's Talk About Me' by The Sandbox Collective

My review of "No Filter" is in today's Inquirer--here. To all the conyo kids out there, this is your show! Get off your ass and go see it! Book a couple of tickets and text a friend, "Hey, I'm watching No Filter, wanna come with?" It's not your usual house party chismisan, swear, and if you have a car, then it'll be so not hassle. Bro.

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Navel-gazing made eloquent and fascinating

(L-R): Mikael Daez, Saab Magalona-Bacarro, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Cai Cortez, Khalil Kaimo.

"A play by millennials for millennials about millennials" is how The Sandbox Collective's latest production, "No Filter: Let's Talk About Me," fancies itself--a two-hour, 19-monologue original work.

The tagline is nothing if not fitting: This is such a self-absorbed piece of theater--and that's an excellent thing. So deep is its fascination with its subjects and its devotion to exploring every inch of their skins that the result drips with earnest sincerity.

Dishonesty is this show's idea of hell, and well-meaning self-deprecation its choice of banter.

But if the tagline sounds smugly all-encompassing, then the invisible sub-clause, the unspoken definition of "millennials," should be pointed out: In this show at least, it's limited to the subset of Metro Manila youth with (more than) enough money to spare for a night at the theater and perhaps a nice late dinner afterwards.


"No Filter" pokes fun at hangovers and the "Titas" of Manila, assumes the viewer's familiarity with Instagram and Tinder, and believes the struggle with free-cable internet back in the Paleolithic late '90s to have been a universal one.

What is spoken here is the language of the privileged--not exactly the exclusive-school born-and-raised, but those who, at one point in their young lives, might have had to make extremely difficult choices on matters such as travel, android phones, and heaven bless them, the perfect outfit.

If you identify with these people, then yes, this is the show for you. The "feels," as kids these days are wont to say, run aplenty, and so do the laughs and maybe even tears.

As for the rest of the common folk, fret not. It isn't everyday--heck, every year--that an original English-language Filipino work blazes our way with this eloquence and self-assurance.

What comprises half the appeal of "No Filter" is its script: a potpourri of "First World problems" taking the form of persuasive, vividly written confessions. (And take note, titos and titas, the phrase "First World problems" isn't meant to be taken literally.)

"When the thing you love most becomes your work, it becomes the hanging noose that might just kill you," goes one line, and you immediately wish every English-spouting private-school graduate could actually write like this.

"Love Me Tinder" humorously ascribes a disproportionate amount of intellectual discernment to the frivolity of the online dating/friendship-forming/soul-mate-searching app. "Moving Out" convinces us that moving to New York to fake one's death is the right thing to do.

Ideal companion

If not always powerful, these monologues simply ooze with passion. And they find an ideal companion in director Toff de Venecia's unembellished staging and the performances he has extracted from his cast, half of which are making their stage debuts.

The challenge for them, one realizes, is not "to act," to alter voice, movement and expression and assume a vastly different identity, but to "tweak" their personalities just a little, to ensure that they aren't just playing themselves, or their siblings, or their neighbors, but the writer--someone with probably the same privileged background as theirs, whose world intersects with theirs through countless similarities, but whose back story can be miles different.

It is a challenge that this cast, more often than not, handles with surprising ease and confidence.

And so we have fashion blogger Saab Magalona-Bacarro making quite the cogent, heartfelt case for the writer who faked her death in the Bronx; or Jasmine Curtis-Smith effortlessly shifting between contrasting emotions in "The Interview," about a writer who must deal with her own anxiety in front of her potential employer; or Cai Cortez charismatically saying that, yes, plus-sized women get to be choosy on Tinder, too.

That this production is already wrapping up its six-performance run this weekend only makes you wish that these women would consider going back onstage soon. (A limited extension is set for Aug. 7, 8PM; and Aug. 8, 7PM. --Ed.)

The big achievement of "No Filter," a show dedicated to the generation that purportedly loves to talk about itself, is to make self-absorption an appealing attribute. And if the characters talk in such a fascinatingly articulate manner, listening to them rant about their issues--ranging from the downright vapid ("When did dating become such a mindf*ck?") to the subliminally vital ("We're only trying to make do with the ruined world we inherited")--turns out to be far from a chore.

This review is by a millennial who "took one for the team." See the show to understand what that means.

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Contact numbers: 5856909 or 0917-8996680, or visit Sandbox's Facebook page.

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