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Sesar

A golden solo show where the Philippines native Orlando Pabotoy recounts performing Shakespeare in the family bathroom and then with his heroic father.

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Orlando Pabotoy in a scene from “Sesar” (Photo credit: Hunter Canning)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

Christopher Plummer’s guest appearance on a 1987 episode of The Cosby Show giving a Shakespearean mini-recital in the Huxtable living room had a profound effect on writer and performer Orlando Pabotoy. That clip is a highlight of Mr. Pabotoy’s marvelous solo show, Sesar that recounts his relationship with his heroic father. Opening with a furious recreation of a storm and closing with an enchanting visual surprise, it’s 65 theatrical and emotionally resonant minutes taking place in the family bathroom.

“That language took me over.” Pabotoy was 14 years old when he witnessed Mr. Plummer’s dazzling artistry and that inspired an obsession with Julius Caesar. Spending hours alone while acting out all of the parts aroused the concern of his father who thought he was masturbating excessively. When the true nature of Pabotoy’s solitude is revealed it leads to a deep bond between the two.

The elder Pabotoy had a law degree, was an ex-boxer and was the mayor of the Filipino island town where the family was centered. Following the 1986 political upheavals,they relocated to Fiji. Later on, Pabotoy, his parents and siblings emigrated to the United States. His mother was a Peace Corps worker and his father became a stock clerk at Macy’s and an airline employee delivering meals to planes. In addition to depicting the universality of father and son conflicts, the play also explores the theme of the proud achiever humbled by circumstance and courageously soldiering on.

Orlando Pabotoy in a scene from “Sesar” (Photo credit: Hunter Canning)

Switching back and forth from perfect English enunciation to Filipino accents and his native dialect, the personable Pabotoy splendidly recreates his young self, his father and characters from Julius Caesar. His dynamic vocal talents are matched by physical prowess that include grandly gesticulating while standing in the shower draped in its curtain. A twirled towel on his head accompanies a speech of Calpurnia’s, a plunger takes on regal attributes and toilet paper is majestically tossed. Marc Antony’s famous oration over Caesar’s body is a thrilling portion and demonstrates his Shakespearean abilities.

Director Richard Feldman’s consummate staging combines guiding Pabotoy’s performance with the technical elements into a stimulating production. Junghyun Georgia Lee’s awesome gleaming white cavernous bathroom set adds an epic dimension to the presentation. There is also a delectably colorful twist for the finale. Ms. Lee’s costume design includes a snappy outfit for Pabotoy and neat accessories.

Musical interludes, crashing thunder and battle noises are adeptly depicted by sound designer Fabian Obispo. Oliver Wason’s striking lighting design veers from realism to fantasy with its fluctuations. Stylized footage of the Philippines, hurricanes, and news broadcasts are the chief features of Dan Scully’s mesmerizing projection design.

Filled with sentiment, Sesar is an uplifting and engaging experience.

Sesar (through November 1, 2018)

Ma-Yi Theater Company

The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 800-447-7400 or visit http://www.ma-yitheatre.org

Running time: 65 minutes with no intermission

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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (561 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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