Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Here Lies Love" - An Imelda Marcos Musical

Having seen a few broadway shows before, I had never come across such a multi-sensory, audience-involved performance as this one. It's hard to explain, exactly, but I hope my perspective will give a sense of why. 

For more information visit: Here Lies Love Website

"Here Lies Love" Playbill and tickets
When Carsyn told me about a musical based on Imelda Marcos during a gathering, I assumed this would be a rather low-budget, high strung performance. I mean, it’s Imelda Marcos, the woman with 1,000 shoes who, in my mind, seemed an odd person getting the spotlight (seeing as our conversation at the time was on the crux of Filipino politics).

However, as any proud Filipino would do, I researched it that night and impressed by the reviews and stunning short videos of the show, I convinced my mom to buy tickets and head to New York City a week later.

The Public Theater is located near the heart of Cooper Union in Lower Manhattan. Having stayed at home for the last few weeks, ascending the three (or so) floors to the small, intimate stage took a bit of effort, but once at the top, we were treated with a neon-purple shrine with Catholic ornaments and pictures of Imelda Marcos scattered next to the stairwell. It only got better.

‘Here Lies Love,’ a disco party, high-energy musical took us back to Imelda Marcos’ beginnings -- from her small life in Leyte to the indulgent MalacaƱan Palace. With David Byrne (from The Talking Heads) and Fatboy Slim as the brains behind the production, you can never expect anything of the normal.There was nowhere to sit, not that it was ever needed. A disco ball hung from the ceiling, neon colors and blaring dance music kept us on our feet. We were literally forced to dance (crazily) in circles and on stage, as actors interweaved into to the crowd and people in jumpsuits moved piece of the stage into differents shapes and sizes.

Sierra in front of the Public Theater
The cast of mainly Filipinos, brought to life not only the history, but also the palpable feeling of millions of Filipinos during this period. I was stunned to see Jose Llana play the corrupt Ferdinand Marcos (he was at IP not too long ago for the Tea Musical!) married to the indulgent Imelda Marcos (Jaygee Macapugay). I felt empowered when Benigno Aquino (Conrad Ricamora) fought for justice and disheartened when he was killed right before our eyes. We were not just audience members. We were the people at Marcos’ inaugural speech, in Imelda’s crazy New York dance parties, on television, in protests, at Aquino’s funeral and at Imelda’s exile. We were there.

Projection of Imelda 
Although the story follows Imelda’s life of rags to riches, it is ultimately a story about the people who suffered at the cost of Imelda’s desire to be loved. It’s about those who pitied Imelda as a child. Who supported her when she left Leyte. Cheered when her husband won a landslide victory and eventually retaliated when Imelda’s love for glamor and ritz soured her own love for the Philippines. In the fashion of dance steps and disco balls, we understood.

Descending the three or so flights of stairs, I couldn’t get the main tune out of my head, even as we rode the subway back to Queens where our car was parked. “Here Lies Love.” Imelda had once said she wanted this written on her tombstone. It’s a paradox. Either it could mean, “Here, there is love,” as in it is right in front of us, or, “Love is a liar.”

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