The divine secrets of the Filipina Yaya sisterhood are told through songs, stories, spirits and superstitions. Yaya, the Filipino term for nanny, brings into a household not only the wisdom of her years, but also the mysteries of mythical spirits that reside within the home and its inhabitants.So comes Yaya Inez (Lou Paman) into a troubled New York Filipino-American household with not only the tantalizing tastes of adobo
(a pork dish), dinuguan
(tripe cooked in pig’s blood) and pinakbet
(a vegetable dish), but also wondrous stories of Filipino folklore characters.In InterAct’s newest production, Woman From the Other Side of the World
, we learn all about these spirits through the stories Inez tells her young charge, 11-year-old Jason (Miles Horiuchi). Not only does Inez talk about Agta, a tree-dwelling spirit; Duwende, a gnome; Manananggal, a split woman who feeds on unborn children; and Juan Tamad, a lazy folklore character, she mixes them up with a large dash of Roman Catholicism for a fascinating cultural stew.
Out of the blue, Inez comes into the world of Emilya (Rina Dion), a high-powered career woman and single mother whose secrets about her former life in the Philippines come to haunt her, and damage relationships with her son Jason and her current boyfriend George (Juan Ramos). Though Emilya is resistant to the strange ways of Yaya Inez, her best friend Isabel (Angela-Dee Alforque) tries out the curse-breaking, life-giving chants, rituals and amulets, and urges Emilya to give them a try.
The first half of the play feels hesitant in both pacing and acting—though it should be noted the Mother’s Day production reviewed had a small glitch when one of the leads was late; her role was gamely filled by script-reading stage manager Tami Higa until the actress arrived. But the cast begins to really gel in the second half and, by the climactic finish, the audience is immersed in the magical healing of the Yaya sisterhood.