A review by Suzanne Birrell.
As Straw Before the Wind opened this week at the Ruby Theatre at the Complex. The play offers a window into the life experience of a Filipina nurse who survives the trauma of WWII only to discover that the war is not over yet in America. The play is worth seeing if only to see the performance of Tita Pambid as Nene Santos. She is fabulous. The role requires that she portray flashbacks to her childhood self and the unspeakable horrors that she endured in Japanese occupied Philippines. These were the power moments of the play. However, the set changes in and out of those moments severely hampered the magic. Ms. Santos could have taken us seamlessly into those moments with just the change of lights. But instead we sat through some very slow and cumbersome changes. The first one merely moved a table back and then forward but it was enough to take us out of the story. At another time two beds - the second one never even used except to be occupied by a sleeping roommate- were wrestled off stage.
A second problem was the juxtaposition of stories. Nene Santos's life as a child in the war torn Philippines just did not translate to a war not over in America. She experiences financial difficulty and is denied a loan to expand her nursing home. This is standard fare for many people in America and hardly translates as continuing the war even if her daughter wants to get married and move out. There would be more of a story if her daughter displayed a relationship with her mother that addressed and connected the two stories. But the daughter seems to be more attached to one of the patients and it is difficult to be sympathetic to her modern day difficulties.
Another confusing thing is that the daughter is supposedly older having been born to a young
Nene Santos who is now 65. There may have been a purposeful misleading of the audience but because of the young age of Sarnica Lim, who delightfully plays daughter Pilita, I expected her answer to the reveal to be that Nene's memory was wrong.
As Straw Before the Wind is suffering from teething pains. It has strong scenes from the entire cast in the flashbacks that makes the play worth seeing simply because we haven't seen it before. I was touched by those scenes. The writing and portrayal in those moments displayed the magic of theater at it's finest.
Listen to interviews with the actors:
AS STRAW BEFORE THE WIND
Ruby Theatre at THE COMPLEX,
6476 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90038
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and on
Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through September 4,
Tickets can be purchased by calling Brown Paper Tickets 24/7 at 1-800-838-3006, or online at http://strawbefore.brownpapertickets.com.
To view B-roll rehearsal footage of the play, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5b-E5mrN9w
The running time of the show is 90 minutes without intermission. This show is recommended for mature audiences.