Every Night I Die is a tragic tale of love and loss. It deals in a delicate subject matter that leads to jaw-dropping dramatic moment. Playwright Amanda Andrei spins the story with just the right amount of twists and turns within an hour’s time. The actors have the challenge to fill that range from the antihero, the temptress, and the benevolent wife to the raging brother.
At the center is the Caritan family with a dark past that haunts their farmland and has suspiciously led to unyielding crops. The hardship wears away the bind of Angelo Caritan and Rafaela Cortez Caritan’s marriage. As their marriage becomes more vulnerable, Angelo develops an eye for the maid of the Cortez house, Mara. A choice on Angelo’s behalf that is unforgivable but leads to the kind of steamy scenes that shakes the entire house.
The play is set on a farm in the 1930s in the mountainous south of rural Philippines. Angelo (Paolo Santayana) looks to nature as a spiritual guiding force. When his marriage with Rafaela (Jennifer Cenana Armas) grows rocky, he begins to escape to the nearby mountains for days on end. Contrarily, Rafaela copes by visiting her family and having long conversations with her brothers, Dacquel and Miquel Cortez. With a greater distance between Angelo and Rafaela split by the large mountains between them, betrayal becomes evident.
Santanyana’s monologues are sharp and spoken to an effect that radiates through the audience. Similarly, Armas captures her heartbreak and despair with a tangible, gripping feeling. Both roles stand out as having the most impact. Mara (Grace Y.) is a character that may be the most tragic of all. She is timid and even in the throes of love her character remains locked in a bind. The brothers of Rafaela are problematic as they consult and urge her that Angelo is troublesome. Miquel offers moments of comedic relief, a choice that is confusing: the bounteous moment of laughter his character inspired came at an inappropriate time of tragedy.
Every Night I Die is a play of polarities. Marriage between a man and woman is an intricate theme, as is love and betrayal. Andrei works in polarities, filling the dialogue with conversations of oceans and the mountains, of daytime and nighttime. The polarities are even more alive in the staging directed by Francis Tanglao Aguas. Often throughout the play a scene will include two different settings simultaneously, one displaying the world of Angelo and the other illustrating Rafaela’s experience.
Though at times it became a struggle to hear the actor’s voices in the venue, the storyline made up for it. Every Night I Die is a beautifully woven tale that offers a small window into Filipino culture made easily accessible through Andrei’s writing. If you are in the mood for an eloquent tragedy that serves up expansive human emotions, this play is fitting.
Every Night I Die has 2 more performances at the Redrum – Fort Fringe, 607 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC.