PETA’s ‘night, Mother Sparks a Conversation on Mental Health

Eugene Domingo and Sherry Lara star in Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA)'s 'Night, Mother

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To end its 50th season, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) is producing a Filipino adaptation of Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning
drama ‘night, Mother starring Eugene Domingo as Jessie, making her theatrical comeback, and Sherry Lara as Thelma.

In contrast to PETA’s previous productions, ‘night, Mother doesn’t present a grand narrative (or even a rousing musical number to conclude it). Rather, it is a more intimate performance, giving the audience a glimpse of a night with Jessie and her mother Thelma. Jessie who suffers from epilepsy casually tells her mother that she has long decided to end her life that evening. Thelma, of course, with all the arguments in the world tries to convince her daughter that life is still worth living. For one hour and 24 minutes, happening in real-time, the audience witnesses the struggle between the two, and within themselves, that will keep them on the edge of their seats until the end.

Eugene Domingo and Sherry Lara in PETA's 'night, Mother
Eugene Domingo and Sherry Lara give powerful performances in PETA’s ‘night, Mother.

Relevant and Universal

‘night Mother was originally staged in 1982, followed by its Broadway debut in 1983, and a movie adaptation released in 1986. However, this is just the first time that a local professional theater company would produce the dark comedy. Director Melvin Lee emphasized the importance of adapting the play to a modern Filipino setting. Although the story in its original form is still relevant today, incorporating elements of Pinoy culture into it makes it even more relatable to the Filipino audience young and old.

Eugene Domingo and Sherry Lara in PETA's 'night, Mother
A modern Filipino family dynamic

If you ask me, the adaptation of Ian Lomogo is brilliantly written. I haven’t seen the original but it didn’t feel forced and literal. English lines were interspersed in Jessie’s dialogue but they felt natural as to how a normal middle-aged Pinay in 2018 would speak. Thelma’s is even more realistic. She responds to Jessie like a typical lola does—tactless and no-holds-barred. Lomogo successfully situates the play within a typical Filipino mother-daughter relationship dynamic without losing the heart of the main characters and their intentions.

It’s time to talk about mental health.

The importance of adapting is to remove all cultural and language barriers and make the message of the play clear to the intended audience. ‘night, Mother comes at the right time in our society: we as a nation need to talk about mental health. ‘night Mother sparks this conversation. Watching it brings up a lot of lingering questions: Does Jessie have a mental disorder? I know someone like Jessie. How can I help her? How can I prevent suicide? I also have thought of committing suicide. Who can I talk to? This is why PETA is holding a debriefing after each show where experts and professionals can address these questions.

The cast and artistic team of PETA's 'night, Mother
The cast and artistic team of PETA’s ‘night, Mother

‘night, Mother gives us a snapshot of the many scenarios of a person’s suicide. There is no single formula to prevent suicide but through these conversations, we can get rid of the stigma attached to it.

Powerful Performances from Eugene Domingo and Sherry Lara

For a straight play as intimate as this, it’s important for the single two characters to be very engaging. They need to maintain the attention of the audience as they tell the story through their dialogue. This is what we get from excellent actors like Eugene Domingo and Sherry Lara. There is a certainty in each line they deliver, and the audience is captivated with their every word. Even if we do not know the whole of their family story, the audience can understand and, more importantly, feel what these people are going through. The message is clear. Because there is sincerity and truth in the portrayal.

Eugene Domingo and Sherry Lara in PETA's 'night, Mother
It will make you laugh. It will make you cry.

PETA’s ‘night, Mother runs from February 2 to March 18

PETA’s ‘night, Mother is a beautiful theatrical piece backed by a timely message. The performances by Eugene Domingo and Sherry Lara are powerful and truthful. It will make you laugh at times, but it will also tug at, and break, your hearts while watching. Sherry Lara, especially, will break hearts.

It’s about time we have more productions like ‘Night Mother. It’s about time we talk more about mental health. The more we are aware, the more we understand, the more lives we save. Let’s talk.

PETA’s ‘Night, Mother runs from February 2 to March 18, 2018 at the PETA Theater Center, No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City. For show-buying and ticket inquiries, contact PETA Marketing and PR Office at 0927-6035913 or TicketWorld at 891-9999

Did you catch ‘night, Mother on its opening weekend? What do you think?

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