‘The Maids’: Haute entertainment

Giselle Töngi-Walters
The Mirror Studio Theatre presents lavish, brooding production of Jean Genet classic

LUSH, EERIE DRAMA. The male leads, Dr. Juan and Fabregas, in their female roles as 'The Maids.' Photo courtesy of Frances Makil-Ignacio/MusicArtes

MANILA, Philippines – Jean Genet’s “The Maids,” staged by The Mirror Studio Theatre with concept and direction by Dr. Anton Juan, is an intimate theatrical experience that should not be missed because of its riveting performances, lavish décor, spine-tingling music, and introspective tone.

“The Maids” is a psychological game wherein two maids, Claire (Topper Fabregas) and Solange ( Anton Juan), act out a plot against their Madame amid the weaving in and out of reality and illusion.

Genet’s play, first staged in 1947, remains highly relevant even today, as it also serves to mirror the opulent high life of our society, with no less than “the help” looking on from the wings.

But this time around, “the maids”  justly take center stage in the arena-styled staging of this straight play. The play communicates how we have become part of the “subservient, re-colonized, and dominated culture of the world,” as Dr. Juan puts it.

‘Atsay, chimay’

The play is an eye opener, particularly to people who nonchalantly flaunt their material wealth, unaware of the extreme divide between them and their supposedly trusted servants.

These old “hands,” in every sense, are taken for granted by their superiors despite their being a crucial part in the hierarchy in which they too strive to live honorable, decent lives.

“Perhaps it is our fault, we too have a culture of expecting the less fortunate of our country from the provinces to ‘serve’ and to be, as the atrocious discriminatory term goes, ‘atsay,’ or even worse, ‘chimay,’” explains Dr. Juan.

“And, yes, how dreadful to hear comments we ourselves make, like, ‘Maganda pa chimay ko diyan [my maid is prettier than that],’ or ‘Mukhang atsay [She looks like a maid]’: as if maids are ugly, the scum of society. So we breed our culture of servitude, and then become the maids of the world.”

The casting is very interesting, with Dr. Juan portraying the older, submissive Solange and Fabregas, the ingénue.

The rotating cast for the Madame features 
Liza Diño
, Maria Jocelyn Glorioso
, Gwyn Guanzon, 
Jenny Jamora, 
OJ Mariano, 
Joel Saracho
, Aiza Seguerra, 
Peter Serrano,
 and Meryll Soriano. Each brings out different sensibilities to this role.

Delighted terror

The set is rich and opulent, as provided by Jo-Liza’s fine furniture.

The lighting is bright yet dramatic and by turns eerie, with the light from the imaginary window providing a perfect frame to those scenes by that window.

The costumes are lavish, thanks to fashion designer John Herrera and Mitoy Santa Ana. The blocking is seamless and utilizes the arena space.

The response of the audience is a mix of subdued chuckles along with gasps of delighted terror at this haute entertainment.

The highlight of this production are the two male leads in their female roles who give honest, subdued, and truthful performances.

Dr. Juan is controlled in “her” demeanor, finding dramatic release as the scenes require.

Fabregas is physically tormented and heart-wrenching in “her” suffering from the predicament she finds herself in.

That these actors portray female characters is a crucial element of fantasy on top of the already altered reality.

The role-playing of Claire and Solange as Madame redefines sadomasochism way ahead of the “50 Shades” trilogy.

All these elements of “The Maids” cohesively intertwine in a production that communicates its ideas for liberating their world, albeit through death.

Victory ensues from illusion, which ultimately becomes their reality. – Rappler.com

The play is presented by MusicArtes. The remaining Showdates are on August 16,  17, and 18 at 
8:00 p.m. and 

17 and 18
3:00 p.m

. Tickets at P300 per head. 

For inquiries, please call Karla Pambid, 09175343223, 
or MusicArtes, 028958098. The Mirror Studio Theatre is located at the
 5th Floor, SJG Center
 on Kalayaan Ave., Makati City.

Giselle Töngi-Walters is a professional ‘slashie.’ Besides being mom to Sakura and Kenobi, she is also an all-around media personality. She is a model/product endorser/radio jock/writer/actor for film, TV, and theater, and producer for second generation Fil-Am content. Being part of the Rappler team is a way for her to utilize her academic and showbiz experience and hopefully make some sense beyond all the chismis.