COURTESY KUMU KAHUA
Wayland Quintero stars as a migrant worker in "The Romance of Magno Rubio."
Migrant fable told in rhyme
Kumu Kahua's latest production of an Obie award-winning play is a collaborative effort, according to its director.
Kati Kuroda has always wanted to do the play after seeing it in late 2002 in New York City. Originally staged by the Ma-Yi Theater, Lonnie Carter's "The Romance of Magno Rubio" is based on a short story by Carlos Bulosan, a migrant worker in the Depression era California canneries who became a writer-activist. Kumu Kahua's production featuring an ensemble cast that includes Troy Apostol in the title role, Lito Capina, Cheyne Gallarde, MJ Gonzalvo and Wayland Quintero.
'THE ROMANCE OF MAGNO RUBIO'
Place: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.
Time: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, starting Friday and running through April 13
Tickets: $5 to $16
Call: 536-4441 or visit kumukahua.org
Also: Discussions about the play:
» 7:30 p.m. Monday, discussion on Philippine culture and immigration, Black Box Theatre, Freitas Hall, Chaminade University, 3140 Waialae Ave.
» 7:30 p.m. April 1, discussion on Philippine drama and literature, at the theater
Carter expanded on Bulosan's story to have the play largely told in rhyming verse with occasional musical interludes of ikaw (love ballads) and the use of the native martial art of escrima.
Utilizing a fine set design by Elizabeth Harwood that represents a migrant farmworkers' bunkhouse of the 1930s (and surrounded by barbed wire), the naive Rubio has a long-distance courtship with the blond and buxom Clarabelle, who in reality is a white-trash woman from Arkansas whom he met through a lonely-hearts magazine. The other characters represent a Greek chorus to Rubio, as they comment and playfully tease their friend and co-worker about his romantic predicament.
"While the play is about suffering," Kuroda said last week during a break in rehearsals, "it's also about the triumph of the spirit, because of all of these things that are against them. Magno Rubio is a simple man in his view of the world, where he believes in love, dreams and ideals. Our production is closer to the original New York version. There's a lot of humor in the play, and that makes the sad scenes more tragic in perspective. There will be moments that touches your heart."
"Kati allowed us to work freely within the structure of the play," said Quintero.
"It's a lot of fun to do," added Gallarde. "Like Kati, I originally saw it in New York, and it's a great story with a through-line and metaphors, like the character of Clarabelle as a metaphor for America."
"This is a play that portrays the experiences of my culture with authentic feelings and attitudes," said Capina.
"I admit that when I initially heard about the play, I wasn't interested in being in it," said Apostol. "But when I scanned the script, I changed my mind. We're all acting our hearts out for this play."
"The guys are important in shaping the piece. ... it's become this wonderful joint thing for me," said Kuroda. "Watching it grow is so exciting, and the guys keep surprising me. If we can do it, this production has the potential to blow people away."