The eyes have it
Some fans of Pokwang and Ai-Ai de las Alas are ticked off with us, because we’re less than impressed with the two comediennes’ occasional attempts to “go dramatic.” Why, they sniff, should we begrudge their favorite stars the desire to become more versatile in their choice of roles and performance types? Why, indeed?
Because, after all of the earnest huffing and puffing on their part, the results can be best described as both overreaching and underwhelming.
There are all sorts of reasons for this less-than-terrific outcome, some of which have to do with general misconceptions in the biz, like the notion that “drama” is “more significant” than “mere” comedy. This is absolutely untrue, as anybody who’s tried acting in both modes can readily attest.
Perhaps drama is preferred because judges of acting competitions favor it by giving many more awards for dramatic performances than for comedic romps? Ah, now we’re getting somewhere: Some comediennes who’ve “gone dramatic” want to enhance their thespic reputations and win trophies, hence the radical shift they sometimes decide to make.
Unfortunately, genuine versatility is a most uncommon gift to find in the biz. And, it isn’t only the comedians who have a tough time shifting gears: Many dramatic icons stumble badly when they try to be funny!
What’s the big deal here? Despite the fact that both acting modes are “about life,” they require actors to use different sets of abilities. For instance, (we’re oversimplifying here), comedy requires “timing” more than drama, while drama is best suited to actors who have “the eyes” for it. —Huh? Whatever are we talking about?
Remember the old dictum, “The eyes are windows to the soul”? Well, that’s it: Actors with relatively prominent and “soulful” eyes are better able to share, often without the need for words, what the characters they play are really thinking and feeling.
Before some readers accuse us of being “colonially” minded or inclined (perish the thought!), allow us to point out that, while Bette Davis famously has the most soulful eyes of all, our own Nora Aunor, Lolita Rodriguez and Laurice Guillen are similarly celebrated for “saying” a lot with their eyes—without having to speak at all!
No it isn’t a matter of the actual size of those celebrated orbs, it’s what the actors blessed with those “windows” are able to do, show and share with them.
Which brings us back to Pokwang and Ai-Ai. They don’t have the expressive eyes for drama, thus the depth of their dramatic sharing is—well, not very.
To make things worse, they have become habituated to relying on dialogue even when they do comedy, so their “visual communication” skills are nowhere near as well-honed and subtle as they need to be.
In fact, when they do comedy, they generally use the “punching” or even “sledgehammer” approach, shouting, mugging and gesticulating for all they’re worth, in a determined attempt to browbeat their viewers into whimpering submission.
Thus, when they “go dramatic,” comedians similarly rely on overacting, “pushing” and overly verbose and flowery dialogue to see them through—with sad and soggy consequences.
The best and most moving dramas, in fact, are much more visual than verbal, where the heart “speaks” instead of the mouth! Unfortunately, that’s a key lesson that many comedians-turned-tragedians have yet to learn.