Dramatic shows on local TV are notorious for their penchant for trying to keep viewers watching by coming up with stories that throw in everything— including the baby and the bath water. A glaring example that should be cited for all the wrong reasons is “Perpetua,” shown last Holy Saturday on GMA 7.
To add insult to injury, the hour-long misadventure in heightened and “holy” melodrama boasted of an all-star cast top-billed by the Susan Roces and Boots Anson-Roa. What a waste of good talent, in the hokey name of take-no-prisoners dramaturgy!
The excessively “eventful” and hysterical plotting did everybody’s best efforts in: Susan and Lito Legaspi played a married couple about to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. However, their happiness turned out to be woefully short-lived because, during their golden wedding rites, their granddaughter’s boyfriend (Lucho Ayala) realized to his horror that Lito was his grandfather as well—by another woman (Boots)!
To make things worse, when Lito recognized his grandson, he had a heart attack! And, at the hospital, the two women alternately lashed out at their “shared” life partner, thus making his medical crisis worse!
Subjected to such “guilt-inducing” treatment, Lito lapsed into a coma, whereupon Susan and Boots fought once more—this time, over visiting and possession rights!
You would think that, after so many stressful scenes, somebody would call for a short break—but the other characters in the turgid “multispousal” domestic tempest were also subjected to compounding crises of their own:
Boots’ son, played by Robert Seña, got hit by a van; Lito’s granddaughter (Joyce Ching) had to make some money fast to pay her school bills, so she became a, uh, playgirl; Susan’s family was thrown out of their comfortable home; her son-in-law (Gerard Pizarras) was charged with estafa!
The worst wasn’t over for Susan, either, because she had to hock her jewels, she (briefly) became a gambler, she doubted her faith and railed away at God—and even (also briefly) became a beggar! Omigod, when TV tragedy hits, it’s with tsunami force!
Aside from the plotting excesses, the TV drama’s direction was a major problem, because the story had so many “highlights” to hit, that it soon ran out of energy and details, and all those low blows were staged in an un-insightful blur.
Instead of selecting some scenes and playing them for edifying dramatic effect, the production sucked viewers into a downward spiral of confounding woes until everybody cried uncle!
How did the drama get out of the melodramatic pit it had dug for itself? By making Boots and Robert experience a major change of heart, and seeing the entire traumatic experience from the interloper (Susan’s) point of view.
How wonderful to see that they were capable of such saintly self-abnegation! But, the about-face was less than inspiring and believable, because it was so unconvincingly staged— and “earned.”