Thespian Thoughts host Kristina Nikols reviews THE ROMANCE OF MAGNO RUBIO

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Poetry, song, martial arts, history, love, hope, and the struggle to achieve the American Dream make “THE ROMANCE OF MAGNO RUBIO” an engaging must-see.

Opening [Inside] the Ford Theatre’s Winter 2011 Season “The Romance of Magno Rubio,” marks the first Filipino story produced on a mainstream L.A. stage.
Lonnie Carter’s OBIE award-winning play based on Carlos Bulosan’s short story depicts the hardships, discrimination, and day-to-day life Filipino farm laborers faced in 1930’s California. Performed in both English and Tagalog (with subtitles)—this heartfelt production beats with a flowing rhythm and love that captures audience attention.

Magno Rubio is a faithful and optimistic soul who falls in love with an American woman he sees in a magazine. With the help of his friend and fellow farm laborer, Nick, he writes letters to his “six foot tall” love living in Arkansas. It is through his story that the audience discovers the enduring will and endless hope migrant workers, like Magno Rubio, possessed in order to survive the harsh life as day laborers. Themes of love, hope, dreams, disappointment, and the basic struggle to survive make this story universal.

The production flows with word play, poetry, and Filipino rhythms and rhymes that create an engaging cadence. Director, Bernardo Bernardo’s use of song, dance, and martial arts produce an appealing piece where audience members immediately become invested in the main character’s struggles and hopes; some of the most poignant moments occur when the talented cast sings beautiful traditional songs in Tagalog.

Jon Jon Briones, who plays Magno Rubio, is riveting to watch due to his commitment to every beat, movement, and emotion his character goes through. Briones embodies Magno with vulnerability and strength—he provides the heart through which this production beats. Giovanni Ortega plays Nick, the supportive confidant and educated brother whom Magno relies on to write letters in English. Ortega’s performance is steadfast and clear through his command of the language as well as his character’s desire to aid Magno. The ensemble of laborers, including Erick Esteban as Claro, Eymard Cabling as Atoy, and Ed Ramolete as Prudencio provide the backbone of brotherhood, conflict, and wisdom for Magno. They enrich Briones’ portrayal of Magno by bringing a sincere camaraderie and a deepening relationship every time they step on stage. At times the pace waned due to word play intricacies, but the cast kept the audience’s attention by pouring their hearts into every word.

Gelo Francisco’s musical direction provides a backdrop of musical interludes and nostalgic songs accompanied by guitar player Vincent Reyes. The fight choreography by Felix Roiles is sharp, impressive, and incorporates slow motion to create a refreshing comedic juxtaposition. The set design by Akeime Mitterlehner is striking in its simplicity; the interchangeable set pieces and minimalist props are utilized successfully, and the wall graffiti stating “No dogs or Filipinos allowed” stands out as a reminder of the racial hardships of that era.

This endearing, heartfelt story provides an opportunity to reflect, rejoice, and revisit the history of Filipino American immigrants in California. An engaging and informative piece, “The Romance of Magno Rubio” is well worth seeing. It plays at [Inside] the Ford in Hollywood until December 11, 2011.

Written by Lonnie Carter
Based on the short story by Carlos Bulosan
Filipino translation by Bernardo Bernardo
Directed by Bernardo Bernardo

Bernardo Bernardo*
Jon Jon Briones*
Eymard Cabling*
Antoine Reynaldo Diel*
Frederick A. Edwards
Erick Esteban
Anthony “Gelo” Francisco
Joseph Gelito
Jet Montelibano
Giovanni Ortega*
Elizabeth Rainey*
Muni Zano*
Vincent Reyes

Ed Ramolete* / Producer
Lorely Trinidad / Associate Producer
Paul Policarpio / Executive Producer, Good Shepherd Ambulance Company
Ted I. Benito / Executive Producer, PAE Live!

Hydee Ursolino Abrahan / Photographer
Peter de Guzman / Choreographer
Rani de Leon / Sound Designer
Anthony “Gelo” Francisco / Music Director
Alex Geronillo / Translation Editing
John Geronillo / Video Projection Design
Leihua Hartley / Lighting & Master Electrician
Jaclyn Kalkhurst* / Stage Manager
Gerry Gregory Linsangan / Lighting Designer
Dori Quan / Costume Designer
Akeime Mitterlehner / Set Design
Roger Nakasone / Master Carpenter & Sets
Shaun Reoliquio / Assistant Stage Manager
Ivan Robles / Sound & Video Operator
Felix Roiles / Martial Arts Choreographer
Joel Sebastian / Make-up
Norman Salao / Wigs & Hair
Jemima Santiago / Wardrobe & Production Assistant
Dean Sponseller / Master Carpenter
Cesar Vargas / Lightboard Operator & Master Electrician

* Member of Actors’ Equity Association

November 2 – December 11, 2011

English version
Thursdays at 8pm (dark November 24)
Fridays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm (December 4 will be signed for the hearing impaired)

Tagalog version with subtitles in English
Saturdays at 3pm
Saturdays at 8pm

[Inside] the Ford
2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East
Hollywood, CA 90068
(just off the 101, across the freeway from the Hollywood Bowl and south of Universal Studios)

(323) 461-3673

General Admission: $25
Seniors & full-time students with ID: $12
Discounts available for groups of 8 or more

FREE on-site (non-stacked)


Thespian Thoughts is a show on Actors Entertainment, a site on the Actors Podcast Network and a Pepper Jay Production.

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