Right Minus Wrong: Joe Cool, Aplikante (Play)
Joe Cool: Aplikante, written by Joshua Lim So, is the second play presented during the Right Minus Wrong production of Dulaang Laksambayanan, Inc, after Ang Huling Lektyur ni Misis Reyes. The short play revolves around two characters, Joe Cool (Aaron Ching), the job applicant barely out of college, and Miss Lyka Agurela (Leah Tarynne Abella-Johnson), the receptionist and administrative assistant of Dohesta Corporation.
All Joe wanted was a job that would earn him a living, but when he went to Dohesta to submit his application, Miss Lyka does not make it any easier for him. For several times, she refuses to entertain him—from not confirming that this is Dohesta Corp., to citing reasons that they do not need someone who does not follow the “system” that they strictly implement or that they do not even have an opening at all. She even tells him wrong directions to keep him at bay.
Joe still not gives up as he tries to keep his cool (and his matching “swag” attitude and looks) by calling her cute nicknames and rides along with her grammatical and pronunciation errors (“Are you applicating?”, “Where is your resumi?”, and “Do you want to eat me?”) just to see at least one of his multiple resume submissions processed. Even if Joe tries to correct her with her poor command of English, she still acts like a know-it-all.
As the story progress, things get more absurd when Joe realizes that there are no other employees at the floor except for Miss Lyka. Seeing that he had no other choice, Joe began to answer the interview-turned-interrogation. But it began to become ugly when she exposes him to be fabricating his personal information from his name down to his credentials. As if this was not enough, she tortures him with a shock gun, and asking him why he wanted the job in the first place. After all, the job is valid only for less than six months, with low pay and no benefits.
He also wonders how come Miss Lyka becomes deathly afraid of Dohesta’s CEO, Ernesto Karera, when this boss seems to never step out of his office? Is there someone inside the CEO’s office? She often tries to appear busy and confident, but when her boss calls her, she acts like a prey about to be consumed any minute by an unknown predator.
Joe then accuses Miss Lyka of sexual harassment, forcing her to breakdown in tears. She then starts her monologue—in straight Filipino than using her grammar-prone English—about how she also dreamt to be a famous actress and become rich before, and not in a deadwood and menial job in this place right now. Joe seized this opportunity to try to enter the CEO’s door, and the cat-and-mouse chase ended with Joe successfully entering the CEO’s office and Miss Lyka walking out of the company premises. The play wraps up when Joe takes the place of Miss Lyka and is about to entertain a new applicant for the company.
Joshua Lim So’s play Joe Cool: Aplikante provokes the audience to reflect on how the society is run by a certain “system.” Who runs the system? Is it the government, the businessmen or both? How come this “system” can make people be certain and uncertain of their actions at the same time? The mere title of “CEO” connotes power, and even if one cannot be sure if this Ernesto Karera persona actually exists, both Miss Lyka and Joe allowed themselves to be swallowed into the “system” out of their need for jobs.
Looking at the two main characters, the play teaches us how one work around his way into Dohesta Corp.’s “system.” Miss Lyka obediently (albeit blindly) follows the rules of this “system”, she still has dreams that she hope to achieve some day, only that she is stuck in this job that has no growth and meager pay. She cannot even improve her English, but still speaks in a know-it-all twang that pisses Joe off several times.
Joe, an outsider of Dohesta, applied to enter such “system” because he was desperate to have money to help cover his family’s expenses. Throughout the interview-turned-interrogation, Miss Lyka questioned his motives of applying into this job, asking him repeated “Why?” for each answer. The classified ad that Joe refers to is not specific as to what position he is applying for, but shows off he has enough experience to work it out. It was later revealed that the job is actually a replacement of Miss Lyka; hence, the mention of the six-month contract, little pay, and her extraordinarily rude behavior. Perhaps, if she tortures him hard enough, he will lose his interest of the company and she will secure this job.
Beyond the issue of contractualization of jobs, the play transcends to delve also on the theme of how one loses the idea of oneself when he or she allows to be subjected into the system. Miss Lyka is a dispensable person to the “system”, and she wanted to remain important by imposing her authority in her territory for the outsiders (for as long as Joe does not get too near the CEO’s office). But her fears and untoward behavior only magnify the curiosity of Joe in Dohesta. When he finally replaced Miss Lyka, he also loses his “cool” identity as he identifies himself to be an employee of Dohesta already. But the company treats its contractual employees like objects that are easily disposable once their contract expires.
The sexual innuendos and mild profanity in the dialogue between Miss Lyka and Joe Cool keeps the play in a somewhat lighthearted mood. It is noteworthy that the name of Miss Lyka Agurela is a loose joke of the phrase “like a gorilla”, which explains her behavior. Joshua Lim So’s portrayal of Joe’s character ponders on our personal dreams and sacrifices when it comes to necessity and family matters. There is always an answer and a purpose to our life’s repeating questions of “Why…?” If we do not know what we are doing and where we are going, chances are we are submitting ourselves in the predatory system that is hard to get out, unless it kicks us out.