Christine Jamlig plays a woman who finds her father (Ogie Zulueta) dead in Magic Theatre’s “Dogeaters.” (Courtesy Jennifer Reiley)

Christine Jamlig plays a woman who finds her father (Ogie Zulueta) dead in Magic Theatre’s “Dogeaters.” (Courtesy Jennifer Reiley)

Marcos era doesn’t come into focus in ‘Dogeaters’

Enough happens in Jessica Hagedorn’s 1998 drama “Dogeaters,” now in a revised version at the Magic Theatre, to make the mind reel.

The sprawling and ambitious play about the Philippines — its people, its culture, its politics, its history — is based on Hagedorn’s own 1990 novel of the same name, set during the Marcos era.

But her adaptation, at least as presented here, is more confounding than elucidating.

Fifteen actors play nearly 40 roles in more than 30 scenes over two-plus hours, and it doesn’t help that the cast is uneven, in general veering toward overacting and stereotypes.

The normally fine director Loretta Greco has not figured out a way to make the characters connect authentically to each other — or to us — and to keep the complicated plot clear and compact.

Scenes tend to feel too lax or else too melodramatic and too often are played for laughs when they shouldn’t be. At other times, characters and scenes feel like fillers.

The play follows more than a few main characters as they wend their way through tumultuous political and personal events of the late 20th century.

There is Rio (Rinabeth Apostol), a Filipina-American who arrives in Manila, after many years, for the funeral of her beloved grandmother and finds it hard to fit in.

There is Joey (Rafael Jordan), a male hooker who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And there are Daisy (Christine Jamlig), the daughter of a squeaky-wheel senator whose assassination we see right at the beginning of the play, and Trini (Carina Lastimosa Salazar), who’s in love with a wannabe movie star.

That’s not to mention the gay hairdressers, government officials, military men, junkies, movie stars, a drag queen, reporters from the West, rebels in the hills.

There are also true historical figures: Imelda Marcos, who’s presenting a film festival at her new film center; German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who’s in town for the festival; a 19th-century French Jesuit priest and explorer who makes an out-of-time appearance; and more.

It ought to be helpful that a pair of TV announcers (Melvin Badiola and Esperanza Catubig) narrates the action throughout the play. However, they’re presented as satirical pop-cultural figures, which, while comically entertaining, also distracts from Hagedorn’s story.

The story of this beleaguered nation is worth telling, for sure. If only it could be told in a more dramatically accessible way.

REVIEW
Dogeaters
Presented by Magic Theatre
Where: Building D, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays; closes Feb. 28
Tickets: $35 to $75
Contact: (415) 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org

Carina Lastimosa SalazarChristine JamligDogeatersImelda MarcosJessica HagedornLoretta GrecoMagic TheatrePhilippinesRafael JordanRinabeth Apostol

Just Posted

ose Pak and Willie Brown at an event in 2014. 
Rose Pak and Willie Brown at an event in 2014.
Willie and Rose: An alliance for the ages

How the Mayor and Chinatown activist shaped San Francisco, then and now

San Francisco supervisors are considering plans to replace trash cans — a “Renaissance” garbage can is pictured on Market Street — with pricey, unnecessary upgrades. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco must end ridiculous and expensive quest for ‘pretty’ trash cans

SF’s unique and pricey garbage bins a dream of disgraced former Public Works director

Giants right fielder Mike Yastrzemski is pictured at bat on July 29 against the Dodgers at Oracle Park; the teams are in the top spots in their league as the season closes. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
With playoff positions on the line, old rivalries get new life

Giants cruised through season, Dodgers not far behind

Golden Gate Park visitors may take a survey about options regarding private car access on John F. Kennedy Drive, which has been the subject of controversy during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Your chance to weigh in: Should JFK remain closed to cars?

Host of mobility improvements for Golden Gate Park proposed

Drivers gathered to urge voters to reject an initiative that would exempt Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy companies from state labor laws, in San Francisco in October 2020. (Jim Wilson/New York Times)
What’s the role of unions in the 21st century?

As membership declines in California, economic inequality increases

Most Read