CRISIS MODE: LIVING PILIPINO IN AMERICA At Strand In Baltimore Resonates With Immigrants, Illuminates Everyone

Identity Crisis Is Not Just For The Middle-Aged- Cori Dioquino’s Solo Confessional Gracefully Disquiets Audience

By: Mar. 21, 2023
CRISIS MODE: LIVING PILIPINO IN AMERICA At Strand In Baltimore Resonates With Immigrants, Illuminates Everyone

Cori Dioquino explores identity issues with personal specificity in CRISIS MODE: but her themes and experiences have broad relevance. Despite its title, CRISIS MODE: LIVING PILIPINO IN AMERICA is neither angry rant nor despairing wail. It's a revelation as well as a personal and cultural history. It's also heartbreaking, interactive and funny. Attending the performance is akin to stepping into a memoir while it's being written.

First, though, the word Pilipino: The Philippines- one L, two Ps- is a set of islands located east of Vietnam, north of Australia, southwest of Japan. Natives of that country call themselves Pilipino, Filipino, and sometimes- females, anyway- Filipina. Some of these also mean the language of the Philippines. If I'm accidentally breaking usage rules regarding these words, I apologize. I'm still sorting out how to spell Chanukah. Hanukkah. Anyway.

Cori Dioquino, while telling her own story of estrangement from her homeland as well as her adopted country, tells the story of immigrants from everywhere. It's easy to substitute one's own specifics in place of Dioquino's personal incidents. Though I, a 5th generation White Jewish American, don't have an immigrant story, Cori's resonates for me as expected of anyone with basic compassion. Our country is guilty of countless bloody acts. It is a small thing to learn the histories of the impacted peoples, their truths and perspectives. Learning and rendering respect for the journey of hyphenate -Americans, those who have been Othered, sometimes literally to death, is an ethical imperative; let's get them RIGHT, from smallpox blankets to the Irish Potato Famine to the massacre in Tulsa, OK. Say their names, as it were. If the only thing you know about the Philippines is that Imelda Marcos had too many shoes, you're not alone; that's pretty much all I knew, too. CRISIS MODE: offers an engaging opportunity to fill some egregious gaps. It's sometimes shocking and heartbreaking; please note that there are references to violence, childhood trauma, bullying and abandonment.

Strand invites theater-goers to enjoy something they've never seen before by offering fresh material. Beyond that, Strand is the lone Baltimore area theatrical company devoted to promoting womens' stories, featuring female or female-identifying performers, techs, producers and writers. It is not, however, an anti-gentlemen operation, as menfolk are VERY welcome in this space. Today's audience represents a spectrum of age and ethnicity, including some people of Filipino origin.

Director Tara Cariaso keeps Cori Dioquino at the center of the story, while drawing in other characters to augment the narrative. That each character speaks with Cori's voice is consistent with the memoir-esque ethos of the piece, and hearing sometimes subtle changes illustrates that people are, moment to moment, different versions of themselves. We don't always know who we're addressing- the wounded child? The confident educator? The brash young adult? We perhaps aren't aware when we are not our 'best' or even 'same' self, but expect compassionate treatment anyway. It's presumptive to assume 'sameness' or 'bestness' of others in daily interactions. Off the cuff disparaging or dismissive remarks can leave deep psychic wounds; we need an occasional reminder. Dioquino provides that, sometimes with calculated bluntness.

Frequent demonstrations of dance, arranged by Choreographer Catrece Ann Tipon, depict a person participating in cultural tradition rather than the practiced polish of a professional dancer. It's touching and sweet, especially once it becomes clear how much effort Cori needed to make to even access this part of her personal backstory.

There's not much set- centermost is a screen, while props, clothing and significant objects are arrayed at different levels around the performance space. Costuming is representative, often donned onstage as Cori speaks. Please observe the remarkable floor, created by Director/Set Designer Tara Cariaso.

Lighting, by Lighting and Projections Designer Amy Rhodes, is excellently conceived, serving to separate segments of the show from one another. Lighting cues, while not fancy, are structurally necessary. Projections and video are used in basic AV Aid style rather than as atmosphere or set extension. Occasionally, projections are somewhat difficult to see due to insufficient contrast. Justin Sabe's sound design, like the lighting and projections, is integral to the show, as Dioquino expands and enriches her world with additional voices and musical moments. The intimate space of Strand is ideal for audience interactions. The seating, on raked risers, features a tech booth at its apex. Strand provides every theatrical requirement: though there's no fancy wallpaper or ceiling medallions, nothing about this space feels shoestring.

The Hamilton/Lauraville neighborhood where Strand is located combines an assortment of Baltimoreisms. Hipster eating places snuggle next to liquor stores and drycleaners, churches and automotive shops. If you'd like a pre-show meal here, make reservations to assure you'll be seated. Street parking is available, though not abundant, so allow extra time to find a spot.

This show, without feeling unfinished, might be an evolving work. Next time Cori presents it, it's likely to be different. See it now, in its initial iteration, and enjoy new developments in the future. If you've been, or loved, an immigrant, if you've been, or loved, someone "other-ed" for cultural reasons, if you've been, or loved, someone with a dualism of identities, this show will resonate strongly.

Run time: 1 hour, 15 minutes with no intermission.

In their continuing Covid combat, Strand requires facial coverings for audience members.


at Strand Theater

5426 Harford Road, Baltimore, 21214


Performances are Friday, March 24, 8pm

Saturday, March 25, 8pm

Thursday, March 30, 8pm

Sunday, April 2, 2pm

Purchase Click Here.

Beginning March 30th, there will be an option to enjoy the show virtually.


Photo credit: Shealyn Jae Photography


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