Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review of DUP's TEATRO PORVENIR: Bonifacio as an Actor

December 7, 2013

The latest production by Dulaang UP is also inspired by the 150th birth anniversary of Gat. Andres Bonfacio being celebrated this year.  This play, "Teatro Porvenir" is already the third Bonifacio play I have seen this year, following the PhilStagers' "Bonifacio Isang Sarsuwela" (MY REVIEW) and just recently TP's "San Andres B." (MY REVIEW).

Unlike the first two, "Teatro Porvenir" is a straight play.  Much like "San Andes B.", the first act started by showing Bonifacio with his two brothers and two sisters making fans and canes. Then it goes one to talk about the renegade theater group that Bonifacio joined, the "Teatro Porvenir," which focuses on local characters, settings and issues, and its rivalry with "Teatro Infantil," the more traditional group that deals with faraway lands, royalty and themes.  

We meet Aurelio Tolentino (Joel Seracho), the prolific playwright, interacting with not only Andres Bonifacio (Russell Legaspi), but also Macario Sakay (Jojit Lorenzo) and Emilio Jacinto (Paul Jake Paule) among his actors.  We also see Bonifacio pay court to his future wife Gregoria de Jesus (Jean Judith Javier).  At the end of the first act, Bonifacio would realize that the way to gain freedom from Spanish oppression is not with Theater, but with an actual armed Revolution.

The second act has more straightforward history telling.  Teatro Porvenir ceases to exist as the drama of real life with the KKK is born. We will see Emilio Aguinaldo and Daniel Tirona as antagonists, as in several other Bonifacio stories.  The play goes through Bonifacio's last days, his betrayal, his trial, his death, creatively told in parallel with his wife, as she muses about its aftermath.  There was even a quasi-fantasy scene of Bonifacio with Jose Rizal.  We also see the entry of the Americans and the fates of Jacinto and Sakay. Tolentino promises that he will continue to create plays about his friends to serve as inspiration for future generations, as the Revolution is far from over.

It is not a good thing when the stage presence of the lead character is overwhelmed by the stage presence of the supporting characters.  Russell Legaspi, while basically proficient as an actor, did not have the requisite charisma for the lead role of Bonifacio.  He does not stand out in the crowd scenes at all.  I wonder how it would have been if I had caught his alternate, screen actor Romnick Sarmienta, in this role instead.  

Joel Seracho imbues Tolentino with passion for the theater throughout the revolution and afterwards. Jojit Lorenzo is a very natural actor as Sakay, with electric stage presence that can command the stage when he is on it.  This is despite the bad wig he had to wear.  Paul Jake Paule stands out because of his body build, but he seemed very nervous in his portrayal as Jacinto.  His stirring final monologue though makes up for his shaky earlier scenes. Jean Judith Javier I remember as Sisa from DUP's Noli Me Tangere the Opera. She really has this haunting presence onstage, and we get to hear her dramatic singing voice as well here as Ka Oryang.

Congratulations to DUP artistic director Alexander Cortez and the rest of the DUP cast and crew for successfully bringing to life this formidable complex play written by Tim Dacanay. 

"Teatro Porvenir" plays at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, in Palma Hall, UP Diliman.  It has two more performances left (10 am and 3 pm) as its run ends today, December 8, 2013. 

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