In this Filipino adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, we are reminded of the decadent lifestyles of affluent Filipinos during the Marcos era. In a hacienda in Negros Occidental, the Jardelezas struggle to keep their estate (and their arbol de fuegos) while maintaining the appearance of their wealth.
Cherie Gil is a captivating Enriquetta, the affluent senyora of a lavish ancestral estate in Negros Occidental. She comes home with her daughter, Nina (Anna Luna) after spending five years in Madrid following the death of Enriquetta’s husband and son six years prior. They are accompanied by Kane (Kiki Baento), Nina’s governess; Caloy (Anthony Falcon), a manservant; and Enriquetta’s brother, Adjie, played by Jake Macapagal.
Once home, they are met by a host of characters like Nonoy Tiking (Raffy R. Tejada), a recently-successful local businessman; Charito (AngeliBayani), Enriquetta’s adopted daughter; Pindot (Lao Rodriguez), Lingling (Divine Grace Aucina), the estate’s maid; ManongIkong (BembolRoco), an elderly manservant; Chitong (Leo Rialp), an impoverished landowner; and Dante Tenorio (RikiBenedicto), a tutor of Enriquetta’s late son.
It’s a powerhouse cast, with the likes of Cherie Gil, Jake Macapagal, Bembol Rocco, Angeli Bayani, and other familiar staples of both film and theater playing an ensemble dynamic that just works. Each actor pulled his weight, but more importantly, everyone held their own, giving depth and interest to their character, no matter their part in the central plot.
Rody Vera successfully adapted Chekhov and situated the original work within the Filipino context. This resulted in a play that is highly relatable and relevant. His dialogues (an amalgam of Spanish, Ilonggo, and Filipino), in the masterful tongues of the well-chosen cast, had a near-lyrical quality to them.
Arbol de Fuego is a theatrical tour de force. Treading down the line of drama and comedy, the show is amusing and entertaining, yet deeply affecting. This production is truly a strong finish for PETA’s 47th season.
ARBOL DE FUEGO
DIRECTED by Loy Arcenas; WRITTEN by Rody Vera; STARRING Cherie Gil, Jake Macapagal, Raffy Tejada, AngeliBayani, Anna Luna, BembolRoco, Divine Grace Aucina, Kiki Baento, Lao Rodriguez, Riki Benedicto, Leo Rialp, Anthony Falcon, and GieOnida. This show runs from February 22 to March 15 at the PETA Theater Center.