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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 4, 2012

Bona Review

FIRST OF ALL, we just want to clarify that Nora Aunor is not the original Bona. Before he did it as a movie in 1980, the late Lino Brocka already did “Bona” on the TV anthology drama, “Babae”, starring a very young Laurice Guillen in the role in the early 70s.

The 2012 version starring Eugene Domingo only got the got the story idea of a fan who becomes an adoring “alalay” to a struggling actor. It has become so different from the film version, which is more of a drama. The stage play is more of a comedy and has plenty of “kabaklaan” since Bona (Eugene Domingo) is really like a “bakla” so desperately subservient to the object of her affection, Gino (Edgar Allan Guzman). Nora was young and poor, but Uge here is a middle-aged old maid who works a call center agent and is pretty well off. Edgar is now a showbiz wannabe in an artista search on TV and Uge becomes her number one fan who organizes Gino’s Angels to help him win, but he still loses. She pawns the house and lot she inherited from her parents to produce an indie movie for him and help him in his quest for stardom. But he’s a total asshole so she also does what Nora did to Phillip Salvador in the film: pour boiling water on him.

Director Soxie Topacio didn’t fail in his desire to make his “Bona” a crowd pleaser. The audience really laughed out loud in so many scenes, what with the many one-liners thrown casually by Uge, who made it in her own show. But the play bogs down in the middle as Bona becomes more and more obsessed with Edgar.

Nora as a plain young woman doggedly attracted to the handsome but sleazy Phillip in the film version is understandable, so we accept that she’s willing to be his personal factotum. But in the case of Uge who’s portrayed as someone intelligent and can’t take her own sister’s having several kids with different fathers, we’d expect her have to more sense and sensibility. From the beginning, it’s clear that Edgar is not someone we can root for when he gets drunk and is mauled by the relatives of a girl he got pregnant. Five minutes into the play, we already know he’s a heel not worth anyone’s time, but it took Uge a tedious two hours before she finally comes to her senses?

Uge’s “Bona” is not that successful in probing fan mentality and obsession, but it’s quite effective in painting an ascerbic picture of showbiz today, what with so many ordinary people dreaming of fame and fortune by becoming an “artista” on reality shows. It shows talent managers and the movie press as a corrupt and exploitative lot (all “bakla”) who won’t hesitate to dupe and use people to earn a fast buck. The play ends with TV host Boy Abunda interviewing Uge after she poured boiling water on Edgar, an epilogue the movie doesn’t have. This provides an ironic twist since Boy’s last question is: “Gusto mo bang mag-artista?” Uge doesn’t reply but there’s a cryptic smile on her face, implying tacitly that she’s willing to try it. And why not? When she already experienced her 15 minutes of fame?

Direk Soxie effectively makes use of mixed media in the play. Since the play is about TV and movies, there’s a big screen where video portions are shown, like Gino’s elimination from the “Star of Tomorrow” contest and scenes of the indie movie he’s shooting. When Edgar beds Uge, we see flowers blooming and fireworks erupting in the sky. Soxie also allows his actors to play to the gallery to the hilt and elicit laughs, notably Phil Noble as Uge’s gay best friend who’s starting to doubt the masculinity of his own boyfriend, Gabs Santos. That Uge is good is a given, since the role is rewritten to be tailor made for her. But in all fairness to Edgar, Uge didn’t just eclipse him on stage and he manages to hold it on his own. Giving good support are Juliene Mendoza as Bona’s good-hearted suitor (played by Nanding Josef in the film) and Olive Nieto as her slutty sister.