With the poor, suffering Philippines so prominently in the headlines, Boni B. Alvarez's world premiere play, "Dallas Non-Stop," offers a glimpse into the vibrant Filipino culture as uplifting as it is timely.
Set in Manila, "Dallas" revolves around a new American-based airline call center staffed by indigenous Filipinos. New hire Girlie (delightful Sandy Yu) is an ambitious young woman of straitened means who is a fanatical fan of the vintage television series "Dallas." Droll fantasy segments – Girlie's idealization of what life in America must actually be like – punctuate the workaday proceedings, hilariously.
Girlie's associates at the call center include her wealthy best friend Charlie (Anne Yatco), warmly nurturing Chichay (Angel Star Felix, underplayed to perfection), prickly Rodrigo (Kennedy Kabasares) and sweetly romantic supervisor Sandeep (Nardeep Khurmi), who has been sent to Manila to train the newbies. Sandeep and Girlie soon fall hard for each other, but their relationship is rudely interrupted by the arrival of American executive Brad (Jim Kane), whose sexual attraction for Girlie, coupled with Girlie's determination to score an American visa, wreak havoc in the workplace.
Like Alvarez's colorful but confused 2009 world premiere "Ruby, Tragically Rotund," this play is a Playwrights' Arena production directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera. Somewhere in the interval between "Ruby" and "Dallas," Alvarez has matured considerably as an artist, and Rivera takes full advantage of his opportunities, to humorous and poignant effect.
The thoroughly stylish staging is buoyed by superlative design elements – most particularly Christopher Scott Murillo's runway-like set and Adam Flemming's projection design, which ranges from floating clouds to specific city milieus. The dream cast bonds into something very much like an extended family, with all the commensurate closeness and volatility. In Alvarez's beautifully balanced microcosm, there are no villains and no victims – just individuals waylaid by their own unrealistic yearning.
"Dallas Non-Stop," Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Also 6 p.m. Dec. 2. Ends Dec. 9. $25. (800) 838-3006. http://dallas.brownpapertickets.com. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.