By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – Sesar is a historic step up for the Filipino artist and the Filipino narrative on the theater arts here. Perfectly timed for the month of October as the Filipino American History Month, it gathered Filipinos to appreciate their own relatable migration story on center stage.
Written and performed entirely by Julliard trained Orlando Pabotoy on MaYi Theater, Sesar unravels as the first theatrical art fully depicting the disrupted life of a Bisaya-Filipino on Times Square’s The Beckett on theater row. The week-long performance is directed by Richard Feldman.
The 90-minute play situates itself in the political storm during the Marcos downfall that displaced an entire family to Fiji for fear of persecution, and then to the US. It uses Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to appreciate political betrayals of the local ruling elite, as it did at the time of Caesar in Rome.
The intricacy of acting as a son and father with a heavily Boholano accent makes the play genuine and rib tickling, and Pabotoy stunning, as he shifts his accent and character as the Americanized young son, to the old provinciano Bisaya father, and back. Pabotoy is a product of an American mom and a Boholano dad. In one of those performances, the old Pabotoy watched his son perform, swinging back and forth eloquently on his Bisaya and American accents. Truly impressive and hilarious.
Sesar is a hybrid of the autobiography of Pabotoy’s father, who is Orlando Sr. a town mayor of Bohol, and the theatrics of Marcus Brutus, Cassius, and Mark Antony during the murder of Julius Caesar. It is distinctively beautiful and substantive, well-thought and well-crafted, set entirely inside a bathroom, which was designed by Junghyun Georgia Lee.
At the talk-back after the play, Pabotoy admitted that as a young boy, he was awed by the elegant delivery of actor Christopher Plummer of Marcus Brutus in a favorite family comedy on TV. He was hooked. With the conception of Sesar, the Plummer influence on Pabotoy had been indeed reflected, as well as Pabotoy’s honoring of his own father.
Sesar’s theme of self-preservation, political betrayal, humiliation, melancholia, and redemption is weaved in Shakespearean oratory and in the poetry of the homesick yet resilient Filipino in diaspora. Sesar should go on tour.
(Featured photo: Director Ralph Pena, right, engages Feldman and Pabotoy during the talk-back)
#orlandowasamazing with Jaena Valles.