By Dianne Miranda, February 9 2024—
Kisapmata is one of the four plays showing for the 2023/2024 season of Lunchbox Theatre. Co-produced by Chromatic Theatre and presented by One Yellow Rabbit, it tells of a queer Filipinx love story through personal and vulnerable vignettes. The play explores the brief relationship between two characters.
The play has an incredibly intimate touch and feel as the cast consists of only two characters, A (Michelle Diaz) and B (Isabella Perdesen). A recounts memories with and of B in this borrowed time as she switches between her older and younger self.
The play starts with an elderly A receiving a phone call from one of B’s grandchildren in the Philippines letting A know that B’s last parting wish is to see her. With the aid of the beautifully created and easily transformable set — that consists of two screens at each opposite end of the stage and hanging ropes intertwining and filling the empty space allowing for these transitions in time and places — A transfigures into her younger self, reliving the day B left before recalling the first time she met B.
“Kilig” is a Tagalog word that describes this jolt of romantic excitement or exhilaration and is often described as the butterflies in your stomach or the feeling of being flushed or flattered. As A relives the first few interactions she had with B, tallying up a smile count, kilig is felt by not only the characters but also the audience.
The audience is then taken by the hand and brought along the journey of the way A and B first hesitantly bare, and eventually give their souls to each other. This was wonderfully accomplished with the use of stage lights to symbolize emotions, projections to help create separations of locations, graphic designs to aid in the specific mode of storytelling and beautifully and carefully curated music, with hints of Original Pinoy Music (OPM), even a song written by sound designer, Sallie Mae Salcedo.
Naturally, their relationship finds its struggles. B is reminded of her obligations and the reasons for her internship one night when her Nanay is seen on the screen and turns into a dark cloud and shadow emitting this observing presence.
In Kisapmata’s program, playwright Bianca Miranda shares the story of one of her friends not being able to live a life authentically and striking a deal with their parents to be in a heterosexual relationship. Despite the rage that may come with this situation, there is also an understanding of a need for acceptance and recognition that many queer Filipinx have experienced.
Kisapmata is a testament and an embodiment of how Filipinos love — this duality of loud and grand gestures and these quiet sacrifices made in the silence of obligations and responsibilities. It reminds the audience of the truth that love knows no bounds. The act of letting go of A and B was inevitable. Despite this reality of their relationship, the love shared between them is forever. The connections we make in our lives, much like A and B’s relationship, shape us into the people we are today.
The play shows an alternative ending to A and B’s story, different from what the play began with, yet this full circle moment feeling is still present — the feeling that they are changed and forever impacted by one another.
If the audience allows themselves to lean into the ‘corniness’ of the story, to allow kilig to run through their body, they would be able to laugh, cry and repeat with the two characters and feel the unconditional and incontestable love between them.
This play is the validation that can make theatregoers feel seen and heard and remind them that they are not alone in their isolated world. That they can exist as their whole self and that is enough.
Kisapmata runs until Feb. 18. For those who love love, this is an opportunity to laugh and cry your heart out that you wouldn’t want to miss. To buy tickets for yourself, friends and family, visit Lunchbox Theatre’s website.