Saturday, February 15, 2014

Review of Dulaang UP's ANG NAWALANG KAPATID: Energetic Epic Mythology

February 15, 2014

Apart from the Ramayana, the other major Sanskrit epic is the Mahabharata.  Traditionally, the authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to Vyasa. Scholars estimate that this epic probably originated in the 8th and 9th centuries BC. The title means "the great tale of the Bhārata dynasty". It is the longest-known epic poem, with about 1.8 million words in total, an incredible ten times the two Homeric epics and four times the Ramayana

Based on the Mahabharata, ANG NAWALANG KAPATID was first written in 2010 by Floy Quintos for the Ateneo Children's Theater, with an original score by Ceejay Javier.  Now in this reincarnated version produced by the Dulaang UP, this former children's musical gets a decidedly darker and more mature treatment. The book now includes stories which were abridged because they were not appropriate for kids.  The music became heavier, more dramatic and now played by a live band.

The complex story is about a royal family headed by two brothers.  The original king was Pandu, but he was cursed by a deer he was hunting that he could not bear offspring with his wife Kunti.  Pandu passes the kingship to his blind brother Dritarastra.  

Kunti asks the gods to give her three boys, and they acceded, giving her Yudisthira, Bhima and Arjuna. Dritarastra's queen Ghandari was also blessed by the gods with one boy, Duryodhana. Unbeknownst to everyone, Kunti had another child by the sun god before she got married to Pandu. Raised by the the monkey king Hanuman, this abandoned boy grew up as Karna.  

From there, the play revolves around the relationship of these five boys as they faced insecurity, pride, jealousy, avarice, violence and death.

The Filipino text and lyrics were very well-written and clear in its narration of the complicated tale.  There were just some lines I could not make out clearly when the actors were singing them in a low key, but you could always get the story back in context.  There were a number of beautifully dramatic songs interspersed among the prose, like the touching "Lukso ng Dugo", which dripped with raw emotions.

The best feature of this musical play is not exactly the singing, as you can hear a number of bum or dropped notes here and there.  It is actually the very energetic choreography used to drive the story forward.  In songs like "Dharma" and "Shakalakalak", the choreography was festive and boisterous.  When it came down to the climactic "Dakilang Giyera" at the end, the drama was so thick as the actors danced, stomped, and somersaulted all over the stage leading up to its bloody, writhing and moaning conclusion.  As the music died down after that exhilarating number, the whole audience was so moved to erupt into spontaneous applause.

The young cast all did their roles very well.  The boys who played the rivals approximated each others talents and looks and physical agility.  They were initially difficult to tell from each other especially with their difficult names, and generally similar make-up and hairstyle, but eventually you will get who is who. Jon Abella (as Yudisthira) and Vincent Kevin Pajara (as Duryodhana) play the principal rivals for the throne with ferocity.  Ross Pesigan plays the bastard son Karna who was supposed to have been the eldest of the boys, but he actually looked younger than the others, which adds to the confusion. John Paul Basco also deserves mention for his outstanding performance as bluish-hued god Krishna

It was actually the ladies who provide the more effective dramatic performances.  Ronah Adiel Rostata plays the proud Reyna Kunti.  Being the mother of the three Pandava brothers and Karna, she figures in a lot of heavy-duty dramatic singing.  Liana Ilka Chase Salazar plays the self-sacrificing Reyna Ghandari.  Her best moment comes at the very end when she sings "Doon sa Paroroonan" with Rostata.  Dianne Formoso was a forceful performer as she played the fearful goddess of death Kali. Her raspy solo "Kali" comes near the beginning, and you will not forget it. 

For me, the best performer overall is Teetin Villanueva, who played the role of Draupadi, the wife of Yudisthira, whom Duryodhana covets.  Her strong clear voice is really a level higher than everybody else's.  She has a powerfully distinctive voice you can clearly hear and identify even when she is singing along with the chorus.  Her character also figures in a most beautifully-staged segment depicting how Krishna intervenes when Duryodhana attempts to humiliate Draupadi for shaming him.  She really possessed the stage at that moment, despite everything else going on stage.

Like "Collection" last year, director and choreographer Dexter M. Santos again successfully interprets another Floy Quintos script into yet another audacious Dulaang UP production.  It was amazing how he staged how the queens gave birth to their divine children, as well as those other memorable scenes I already mentioned. The daring way how he interpreted the afterlife drew audible gasps from the audience.  Santos was able to make the most of Gino Gonzales' color-coded costumes, Ohm David's expansive set and John Batalla's frenetic lighting effects, uniting these technical elements into his one effective vision.

Congratulations to Dulaang UP and its entire cast and crew for another grand must-see production to close its 38th Season. The previous shows this past season were "The Duchess of Malfi" (MY REVIEW) and "Teatro Porvenir" (MY REVIEW).  While these shows had their merits, this last one is the best of the season for me.

Here is a teaser which showcases the excitement and grandiosity of "Ang Nawalang Kapatid": This video should more than convince you to go and watch.

Do not miss it!  Tickets are selling out fast! There are only few available shows left:

February 19 7 PM
February 20 7 PM
February 21 1 PM

For tickets and inquiries, call Samanta Hannah Clarin or Camille Guevara 9261349 / 4337840 or email

Like the Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas Facebook page (LINK) and follow @Official_DUP on Twitter for more details.


  1. it's true ate teetin is the best performer, nangingibabaw tlga boses nya. :)))