There's a refreshing innocence on the set of Filipino coming-of-age play 'The Waltz', the sequel to Marie Beath Badian's Prairie Nurse, shown at The Factory Theatre in Toronto from October 22 to November 13, 2022.
Taking place in the 90's, time doesn't go supersonic: the pace is relaxed, cellphones are still largely non-existent, the music chill, and the dialogue takes its time unravelling, with lots of silences and stares in between.
There's a feeling of being suspended in time, when there's no internet and endless Apple playlists. What you get instead is a big, bulky CD player, with matching hundred-CD binder organizer that the main character Romeo Alvarez (played by Anthony Perpuse) rifles through and plunks on the CD player as his mood changes.
Their relationship starts with a crossbow aimed by Bea Klassen (played by Ericka Leobrera) at Romeo, as her reverie of a quiet, book-filled afternoon is disturbed by an unannounced visitor carrying armfuls of luggage, a cooler, a boombox and a backpack.
Distrust turns slowly into curiosity, and as Bea opens up about what it's like growing up in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood in Saskatchewan--her character is half-Filipino, half-white--a friendship starts to blossom.
Romeo shares his hardworking days trying to save money, working odd jobs as a choreographer at debuts and weddings. Peppered with Filipino references, we are shown a little snippet of what it's like growing up Filipino in Canada.
When Romeo finally brings the house down with his dance moves--all glorious ten minutes of it--Bea squeals first with embarrassment, then cringiness ('What is happening?" she protests), then finally, delight. You cannot help but love Romeo at this point.
He has no shame, he's authentic, seems to have a good head on his shoulders, and is a consummate Filipino son. I mean, who makes a pit stop in some remote Saskatchewan town just to visit his mom's friend on his way to Vancouver? Yes, indeed, he loves his mom that much.
The energy of the two sole performers is big and energetic. We are but voyeurs to their beer-swigging, dance-filled, innocent, promising young lives.
The waltz dancing at the end sums it up, as Romeo says while box-stepping with Bea, "we have all night". All night to dance, all night to get to know one another, a lifetime to spend together: this is what the audience desires after getting to know the two teenagers on the verge of starting their lives and their love.