By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Written by Boni B. Alvarez and directed by Zenaida R. Smith, the play follows a sister and brother, Farrah and Bosley, as they return to the Philippines to spread their father’s ashes. But an aswang—a powerful evil witch—enters the picture, and soon the siblings must fight for their livesfe, and sanity.
“Going into this project, I was somewhat familiar with these aspects of Philippine culture,” said local actor Matt Dela Cruz, cast as brother Bosley. “My mom would always tell me that ‘Aswangs are evil and do exist.’ I don’t want to generalize, but from my upbringing as a Filipino American, a lot of superstitious things were spoken about in our household, which tends to be a similar thing in a lot of Filipino American households.
“My images/characterizations of ‘aswangs’ when I was younger were one-sided and [about] evil, especially when my mom, brother, and I would watch horror movies from the Philippines. They truly did scare me.”
Pork Filled’s eExecutive dDirector, Roger W. Tang, first became aware of “Bloodletting” when it premiered in Southern California, where Boni B. Alvarez makes his home.
“Pork Filled is a group that deals with genre stories: Horror, fantasy, steampunk, etc.,” Tang said. “That’s been the playground for white folks for a long time, so we wanted to stake out some territory and have fun with it as well. When we saw it was a Filipino story that dealt with a lot of other issues (homophobia, self-hate, feminist self-acceptance, etc.), we thought it was a great vehicle for us.
“With so few opportunities for Asian stories being told up here (despite being 20% of the King County population), [Alvarez isn’t] as well-known as he should be. We’re kinda pleased to introduce him to Northwest audiences.”
To build up his character, Dela Cruz of course had his own cultural experiences to draw from. But, the actor added, something more personal entered the mix.
“Honestly, Bosley parallels many of my own life experiences because I, too, am a Filipino American gay man. With these experiences in mind, I applied what I’ve gone through in order to build up the character of Bosley. While it’s been [an] extremely vulnerable [experience] for me, I truly love and am proud of the fact that I get to play a Filipino American gay man onstage for once. It’s truly liberating and an experience I’ll always cherish.”
The rest of the cast includes Jen-Ai Clinton as Bosley’s sister, Farrah, Sam Prudente as Jenry, and Anna Mulia as Leelee.
“Matt Dela Cruz has been a long-time Pork Filled artist, dating back to our sketch comedy days, and we’re glad to have him back in a bigger, weightier role,” said Tang. “Sam Prudente has been great. He’s done a little work with us in various staged readings, but his experience and background in the Palawan area, where the play takes place, has been immensely valuable.
“Anna Mulia and Jen-Ai Clinton are first- timers with Pork Filled, but they, Zenaida, Matt, and Sam make up an all-Filipino team that’s really appropriate for this show.”
The company advertises “Bloodletting” as rated PG-13, for “coarse language, homophobic slurs, and emotional/domestic abuse.” Tang says he’s not worried about the rating turning people off, but “I do want people to know what they’re getting into when they see the show. The subject matter might be a sore spot with the more religious elements of the community. I’d rather people know what they’re likely to encounter than to give them a nasty surprise.”
Dela Cruz also allowed that the subject matter might be unappetizing to some, but he doesn’t worry.
The play, he concluded, “is a story that explores important and vulnerable experiences that many, many Filipinos can experience throughout their lives. My hope is that people, especially those from the Filipino community, watch this and gain a more positive perspective on queerness in their community, and how/why generational trauma is relevant for many of us.”
“Bloodletting” plays Oct. 19 through Nov. 4 at the Theatre Off Jackson, 409 7th Avenue South in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. For prices, showtimes, and other information, visit https://porkfilled.com/wp/tickets-for-bloodletting-press-page.