Dina (Stella Canete-Mendoza) and Susan (Frances Makil-Ignacio) had been the best of friends since their college days. When they had their respective families, they remained close. Dina married Bert Mendoza (Randy Medel Villarama) and had a daughter Mica (Hariette Mozelle), who is now married to Ely (Reb Atadero). Susan married Fred Valderama (Jojo Cayabyab), and had one gay son Norby (Phi Palmos).
One night, in November 2016, Dina invited Susan and Fred for dinner at their home. However, Susan was distracted because of the news that the body of a past president had been buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani by the current president, and Dina can't see why it bothered her so much. It turned that both women supported different presidential candidates in the last elections which caused their friendship to chill.
From "The Collection" (2013) to "Ang Nawalang Kapatid" (2014), from "Angry Christ" (2017) to "The Kundiman Party" (2018), plays written by Floy Quintos and directed by Dexter M. Santos had been the most exhilarating, most memorable plays produced by Dulaang UP that I had ever seen. Dealing with larger-than-life personalities and staged with elaborate sets, they were bombastic shows that hit you hard with their thought-provoking stories.
In contrast with these previous plays, Quinto's 20th play "The Reconciliation Dinner" is about regular middle-class people going through an experience we are all probably going through ourselves in our own circle of friends. We've had plenty of elections before and we do not always choose the same candidate, but never had these differences in vote been so dramatic, and even traumatic, than the elections of 2016 and then again in 2022.
Every member of the ensemble cast got their moments to shine. Stella Canete-Mendoza and Frances Makil-Ignacio clicked as old BFFs, so we all feel the strain in their friendship and the stress it caused both women. Jojo Cayabyab's Fred may seem mild-mannered, but he can speak his mind when it mattered. Harriet Mozelle's Mica was a product of her parents' influence, while Reb Atadero's Ely kept a critical secret from his in-laws and his wife.
While the friendship of Dina and Susan was the heart of the story, they were not really the characters who made the biggest impact. Passionately pink was Phi Palmos's Norby, so defiantly progressive that he criticized his own parents as "old-school Pinklawans." On the other extreme, Randy Medel Villarama's Bert, the rabid loyalist, a joker who can't take a joke, a character you hate so much, you will cheer when he gets his comeuppance.
With skill and eloquence that he is known for as a playwright, Quintos had practically summarized the uneasy experience of Philippine society in the past 6 years into this 1-1/2 hour-long one-act play. This divisive drama had been played out on social media, made even worse by revisionist memes by troll farms. We have heard all of the triggering issues Quintos referenced, and they will raise the same emotions in us all over again.
"The Reconciliation Dinner" runs from November 18-20 (10:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) at the UP Theater Main Hall Stage, UP Diliman, Quezon City.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."