Everyone’s talking about Floy Quintos’ latest play, “The Reconciliation Dinner,” whose last performances will run this coming weekend at the Power Mac Center Blackbox Theater at Circuit Makati. The story is anchored on the Leni versus BBM fight for supremacy that for eight or so months not so long ago consumed our entire nation, not least the kind of people who can afford to buy tickets to plays like “The Reconciliation Dinner.”
Ticket prices, by the way, are P1,500, P1,800, and P2,000, but even if you get the cheapest seat, we guarantee you’ll be as connected to the bickering and the mud-slinging, and the whole gamut of emotions playing out onstage as the people on the front row. The theater isn’t that big, and there’s an unmistakable engaged energy in the room as the one-act play swiftly unravels, like a Dasma tita running late for her dentist’s appointment, and like most Quintos works for the stage do.
The characters, played by an excellent ensemble, are all of us all those months that led to the May 2022 elections and after. “The Reconciliation Dinner” is about two families, the Medinas and Valderamas, whose friendship started to waver when the previously unthinkable—former President Ferdinand Marcos given a hero’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani—happened during the early months of the Duterte regime.
The families would become potentially irreconcilable during the brutal campaign that had the nation largely divided between Kakampinks and Uniteam. As the majority of the voting public took their stands behind the two leading presidential candidates, Marcos Jr and Leni Robredo, so did the Medinas and Valderamas: the former threw their support for BBM while the latter signed up as volunteers to Robredo’s People’s Campaign.
It’s all pink parols and red velvet cakes until a tragic news would force the two teams, er, families to take their online ‘patutsadahans’ to a face-to-face encounter: a reconciliation dinner. An effort initiated by the two family’s matriarchs—the PR maven Dina Medina (Stella Cañete-Mendoza) and the baker mom Susan Valderama (Frances Makil-Ignacio)—to save their friendship a year after BBM and company were declared winners and the Pinks losers.
Are 12 months enough time for everyone to move on from the poll results? Could the classic sweep-them-under-the-rug moves and sticking to a look-the-other-way policy resuscitate a long friendship? On the evening of the reunion, after months of seenzoned PMs and unanswered phone calls, hugs are given and pleasantries exchanged, and then all hell breaks loose when somebody gives in to the awful temptation of touching on the taboo topic of politics.
It is incredibly thoughtful of Quintos to lean in more to the comedic potentials of his material rather than in the high drama the play’s title evokes. It would have been a totally heavy, tedious undertaking to watch a heartbreak story that’s very much close to home and still fresh in people’s memories. ‘The Reconciliation Dinner’ is very funny, and much of it is not only thanks to Quintos’ zingers but the fabulous and fearless delivery of Phi Palmos (remember him as the gay uncle in the Netflix hit “Dollhouse”?), the activist-drag performer son of the Valderamas.
In between the punchlines, the play is a necessary reminder of the things we sacrificed for the sake of “moving on,” of getting back into our former lives and personal interests. While the story is anchored on the two women friends, it is Palmos’ character Norby who is the very soul of the play. The truth-speaker. The one who, amidst everyone pretending to have carried on from the results of the presidential race, has not turned his back on the fight for his beloved Philippines.
“The Reconciliation Dinner” will make you laugh—and laughing is exhilarating, liberating, and as the cliche goes, healing. But it will also, most importantly, as Ces Drilon says, prick your conscience, whichever side of the political spectrum you’re on.
Photos courtesy of Jaypee Maristaza Photography