MOST men would ignore a dull, conservative, and stern spinster who is as prickly as a cactus. But what happens if she becomes a beautiful lady?

Directed by Zeneida Amador, Abe Burrow’s Cactus Flower, the second play of Repertory Philippines’ in its 63rd theatrical season, tells about spinster nurse’s make-over after being asked to play wife to a dentist. Incidentally, she unconsciously wins the favor of the doctor as well as his mistress.

Act one opens with Igor Sullivan (Arnel Carrion) forcefully entering his neighbor’s room because he smells gas. He arrives on time to stop Antoinette “Toni” Simmons (Ana Abad Santos-Bitong) from killing herself. He then finds out that she is a mistress of a certain dentist named Julian, and is very depressed because her boyfriend didn’t show up on their first anniversary date.

Meanwhile, Dr. Julian Winston (Miguel Faustmann), tells Harvey Greenfield (Meynard Peñalosa), a friend who has just finished his check-up, that he lied to Toni. He made Toni believe that he is married and has three children.

The nurse, Stephanie Dickinson (Joy Virata), hands Dr. Winston a confidential letter from Toni, informing him of her supposed suicide.

Dr. Winston rushes to Toni’s place and is surprised to see her alive. With great happiness over the idea that Toni is willing to die for him, he proposes marriage to her. Toni willingly agrees but worries about what his wife would say. Finally, he gives in to Toni’s demands of meeting his wife, and eventually his wife’s “supposed” boyfriend.

Dr. Winston asks his nurse to play his wife, but she agrees very reluctantly. He has also chosen Greenfield to play as his wife’s boyfriend for a pre-arranged meeting with his mistress.

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The couples meet in a bar. Everything seems fine until Greenfield’s girlfirend, Boticelli’s Springtime (Cathy Azanza), shows up. The whole plan fails but instead of hate, Toni feels more compassion for the humiliated Mrs. Winston.

In act two, Dr. Winston finally decides to tell Toni the truth. First, he gives her a gift, an expensive mink stole, which Toni doesn’t like so much. When he is about to confess to her, he is stopped by Toni’s words—that she can forgive everything except a lie.

Later, Toni decides to secretly give the mink stole to Mrs. Winston as a consolation for what happened in the bar. She makes it appear that the gift is from Dr. Winston.

One night, everyone is present at the bar. Toni is busy dancing with Igor, while Dr. Winston is furiously watching them. Harvey and his girlfriend are also enjoying themselves. And finally, Ms. Dickinson, who is dressed very beautifully, is having a good time with her date, the married Mr. Arturo Sanchez (George Ramos). As the fun increases, jealousy ignites especially when Ms. Dickinson dances intimately with Igor. Dr. Winston and Toni know that they inevitably have to make a choice between who they would really love.

Unlike Repertory’s other play Run For Your Wife (a comedy about a taxi driver who has two wives), Cactus Flower was slow-paced, with some long conversations. The story was dragging towards the end, especially as the lie was about to be revealed and the affectionate feelings of the characters were to be disclosed.

There was no chemistry between Faustmann and Santos-Bitong. They showed discomfort in expressing sweetness to each other, perhaps because of their age gap. Meanwhile, Virata gave a commendable performance as she was really able to change herself from a dull nurse into a fun-loving beautiful lady.

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The setting was also remarkable—a dental office located on the left and an apartment room on the right, with a view of the city in the backdrop. In some scenes, the backdrop was lifted where Toni’s workplace (the CD shop) or a disco bar (with a beautiful image of a dancing golf ball with rays) could be seen.

The play was very entertaining and insightful. It showed that lies hardly develop into enlightening truths. Myra Jennifer D. Jaud

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