Belvoir’s 25A season ends on an optimistic note in Jordan Shea’s story of three nurses recruited from the Philippines in 1974 to train at Balmain Hospital.
Escaping the repressive Marcos regime, brother and sister Antero and Nancy and close friend Cory find themselves presented with more than just the opportunity to advance their nursing skills.
Cory (played by Teresa Tate Britten) throws herself head first into the party scene. Antero (Kenneth Moraleda) is astonished and delighted by Sydney’s comparatively open gay culture. To be out in the Philippines ruled by Marcos, we come to understand, is to risk your life.
Nancy (Monica Sayers), meanwhile, devotes herself to her studies and her patients, diligently sending most of her pay back home to her parents while laying the foundations for a stellar career in the health sector.
Inspired by – and paying tribute to – his mother’s experience as a nurse, Shea paints a warmly funny though unvarnished portrait of his characters and of the times. Cory, Antero and Nancy’s stories are, from their own perspective, success stories – even though they don’t always regard each other as worthy of praise for the lives they’ve led.
Belvoir’s 25A shows are presented on a strict $1500 budget and so director Erin Taylor’s production is necessarily simple. That said, you could do this play with even less. Kasama Kita (“I’m with you”) stands squarely on the quality of Shea’s writing and the charm and vitality of his characters.
Lighting (Kelsey Lee) and sound (Clare Hennessy) serve the piece well and Sayers, Moraleda and Tate Britten are excellent in roles that require them to age half a century (aided by designer Emma White’s sharp eye for costume).
They are strongly supported by Jude Gibson as a starchy but endearing hospital matron and Kip Chapman, who plays Nancy’s harried press secretary in the second act and helps engineer a reconciliation that sends you on your way smiling and having enjoyed your time with these characters very much.