Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review of Repertory Phil's NOISES OFF: Farce Within a Farce

March 29, 2014

"Noises Off" is a 1982 play by British playwright Michael Frayn.  I have vague memories of seeing the film version in the early 1990s, starring Michael Caine, Carol Burnett and John Ritter.  I do not recall the exact story anymore, but I knew it was about the funny goings-on backstage while an actual play was being performed onstage.

This year, Repertory Philippines has chosen this funny farce to be its third offering this season.  Yes, it is only March and this is already Rep's third production (after the suspenseful "Wait Until Dark" and the bitter "August Osage County").  This time they tackle all-out comedy, and I was eager to see how they would stage this play within a play.

The play is about a particularly disastrous touring production of a sex comedy entitled "Nothing On." This was about a couple who hides from the tax man by taking a vacation in their country house unannounced.  Their housekeeper, a real estate agent and his sexpot girlfriend/client, and an elderly burglar make their supposedly quiet getaway a riotous comedy of errors.  The director and the actors in the cast performing this play are all self-important neurotics who have secret love affairs with each other, thus adding to the mayhem. "Noises Off" has three acts, with the whole thing running for three hours, with two ten-minute intermissions.

The first act is a rather straightforward run through of "Nothing On", their final technical dress rehearsal before opening night.  This was done so that we know what should really take place on stage, as we witness the perfect cueing of scenes and location of specific props. For the second act, the entire central set piece is rotated around to reveal an elaborate backstage set. The whole scene was run through another time, but this time we see the topsy-turvy shenanigans backstage. The actors struggle to get their cues, lines and props straight onstage, while everyone gets on each other's nerves backstage.  The third act is supposed to be one of their final shows, if not the final.   Here, the personal conflicts among the actors go completely haywire as the chaos and anarchy actually go onstage.

The story is a challenge for all the actors because they all play two roles: that of a hammy stage actor and that of the crazy character that actor plays.  Oftentimes, the two characters they play are very different from each other, so they would have to switch from character 1 to character 2 by the snap of a finger, and that would add to the wackiness of the entire situation.

I confess I recognized only three members of the cast while I was watching.

Of course, I knew veteran stage actor Chinggoy Alonso, who played director Lloyd Dallas.  He could play this authoritative character blindfolded, like second nature to him.  So real and effortless.

I also knew Lorenz Martinez, who played actor Garry, who played the role of the real estate agent Roger. It was Garry's secret affair with Dotty and his extreme jealousy that was the root of all the misfortune, Martinez played this role with glee. His character had the most physical comedy moments.

I was so surprised to recognize Carla Guevara-Laforteza in the role of newbie actress Brooke, who plays a sexy bimbo named Vicki.  It was unthinkable that the actress who played the good fairy Light in "Bluebird of Happiness" is now traipsing onstage with nothing more than a skimpy black lingerie and thigh-high stockings. Now that is versatility for you! She is hilarious!

I know the name of Shiela Valderrama-Martinez but did not recognize here as the sensible actress Belinda, who plays the sensible wife Flavia.  Of course I know the name of theater veteran Paul Holme, but I did not immediately recognize him the way he looked as the drunk unreliable actor Selsdon, who played the burglar.

The other members of the cast whom I did not recognize are also new names to me.

Frances Makil Ignacio plays actress Dotty, who plays the smart-aleck housekeeper Mrs. Clackett. By the curtain call, she seemed apparently an esteemed member of the cast since she took a bow at the center beside Chinggoy Alonso during the curtain call. She is also billed first in posters. I apologize that I did not know her till now.  I did not like the unfunny way her character was written for the third act, so I did not really enjoy her Mrs. Clackett there.

Gerard Sison plays the flamboyant actor Freddie, who plays error-prone Philip, the owner of the house. This guy was really very funny, maybe because his kooky character, between having a plate of sardines glued to his hand or having his trousers falling to his ankles, had the most funny moments as written.

The backstage crew of "Nothing On" Poppy and Tim are played by Peachy Atilano and Nico Dans respectively.  I thought Atilano seemed miscast because she looked too young for her role.  Dans was alright as the abused stage manager.  Seeing how they countdown to the curtain opening was very interesting, especially how Frayn made even that mundane matter so funny.

Overall, the British farce still plays well even thirty years after it had been written.  I would admit it did feel a bit dated at certain parts.  The third act, with all its hilarious moments, almost feels like overkill of a good idea, since the first two acts already seemed good enough as they are.  Act 2 is the best for me.

I admit the fact that I did not know a lot of the actors also affected my overall appreciation. This would have been so much more exciting with an all-star cast of Rep stalwarts. I think the audience energy will also affect your enjoyment of the play.  At the matinee I watched this afternoon, the laughter was not exactly rollicking among the audience. The two and a half hour length of the play may also be a factor in this regard.

Despite the blurb in the flyers that this show is suitable for all ages, I think maybe not because of there is quite a bit of raunchy adult humor.  I personally had fun, but not everyone may not enjoy the witty wordplay.  The jokes were funny, but rather old-fashioned in a sense, lacking the bite of the more current styles of theatrical comedy as that in, let's say, "Avenue Q" or "August Osage County".

As with all the past Rep productions this season, the set design is top notch!  In that first intermission break, it was quite an awesome kick to witness the whole set turn around in its giant lazy-susan to reveal the backstage set for Act 2.  It was so good that we can see some of the action "onstage" while the main focus was action "backstage". Something you really have to see.  Congratulations to director Miguel Faustmann, who just tackled suspense earlier this year with "Wait Until Dark", following it up now with a slapstick comedy this time with "Noises Off".

"Noises Off" shall run from March 28 – April 13, 2014 and April 25-27, 2014 with shows on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and matinee shows on Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 p.m.  All performances are at Onstage, 2/F, Greenbelt 1, Paseo de Roxas cor. Legazpi St., Makati City.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Review of FULL GALLOP: Delicious, Delightful, Divine!

March 14, 2014

Ms. Cherie Gil has done it again.  After wowing audiences a few years ago with a tour-de-force one-woman show, Terence McNally's "Master Class", she is back with yet another tour-de-force one-woman show, Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton's "Full Gallop."  

In the first play, she played opera singer Maria Callas, who had retired from performing and now a vocal coach.  In this new play, she plays Diana Vreeland, who had just recently been unceremoniously fired as editor-in-chief of Vogue Magazine.  In both plays, the situation gives the lone powerful female protagonist ample legroom to look back at her life and express her thoughts about anything under the sun she felt like commenting about.  

This two-hour play (in two acts) tackled one night when Diana Vreeland who had just come home after an extended stay in Europe after losing her job at Vogue.  She was planning a dinner with a few friends that night, but it seems nothing seems to be falling into place, as the cook had nothing to cook and the guests all seem to have other things to do.  

So for the whole play, Vreeland regales us about her various interesting experiences with her beloved husband Reed Vreeland and the rich and famous set she hung around with, .  She drops big names in the history of fashion, like Balenciaga, Coco Chanel, Helena Rubenstein.  She plays us her favorite music on her record player as she displays her attempts at tango, ballet or the kabuki.  She amuses us with delightful one-liners, like how her "Kleenex and dollar bills were ironed," or how "pink was the midnight blue of India," or how "contentment is only for cows."  Her Intercom conversations with her laconic French maid Yvonne (featuring the voice of G Toengi) were hilarious.

Although I absolutely did not know who Diana Vreeland was, Ms Gil was able to convince me that the spirit of Ms. Vreeland had inhabited her.  This play was lighter and funnier than the Callas play.  I loved how Ms. Gil portrayed Vreeland's idiosyncratic opinions about various diverse topics, ranging from her house decors, colors, taste, nostalgia, the New York Post, and even cheetahs and Adolph Hitler's mustache.  It is not about Vogue.  It is not even about fashion.  It was simply all about Diana Vreeland, and Ms. Gil has become her. Even her mistakes sounded natural. There was nothing second-rate or trying-hard about Ms. Gil's performance as Vreeland.

The luxuriously classy set by Joey Mendoza was breathtakingly resplendent in its scarlet motif.  The audience spontaneously erupted with applause when the curtains were first raised at the start of the show. We the audience all felt like high-society guests sitting in Ms. Vreeland's living room as she chats with us for two hours.

Congratulations to director Bart Guingona and the crew of MyOwn Mann Productions Inc. (with Ms. Cherie Gil herself at the helm) for this exhilarating piece of theater. A one-woman play about an eccentric and crabby American socialite and her stream-of-consciousness rants in 1971 may not exactly appeal to everyone.  But watching Ms. Cherie Gil draw us into her world was quite an experience to remember.

Hurry and catch the last few remaining shows of "Full Gallop"!  After its premiere night tonight, there are only four shows left, tomorrow March 15, then 21, 22, all at 8 pm and one final show on March 23 at 4 pm.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Review of Red Turnip's COCK: John, What Do You Want Really?

March 8, 2014

This play has a very short title, one single word with four letters, yet, it is a very brave title. This word "Cock" is very provocative in its simplicity.  I am pretty sure potential audiences would NOT be thinking that this play would be about roosters upon hearing that title.

Red Turnip Theater stays true to its vision of providing audiences with the most thought-provoking straight plays out there. Its maiden production last October was a heavy complicated play with four characters -- Patrick Marber's 1997 masterpiece "Closer." Its second production now is another emotional tussle, and also with only four characters -- Mike Bartlett's 2009 award-winning play "Cock".

John (Topper Fabregas) has been in a homosexual relationship for the past seven years with M (Niccolo Manahan).  One day, John meets and unexpectedly falls seemingly in love with a female teaching assistant W (Jenny Jamora). This tense love triangle sets up a dinner meeting one night in order for John to make his final decision.  The insecure M made sure he had reinforcement, so he decided to invite his dad F (Audie Gemora) over as well for moral support and then some.

The auditorium in Whitespace was sparse.  The 'stage" was just a red circle on the floor. No other set pieces nor props were employed.  The actors just pretend and act out like they were going in and out of doors to different rooms.  Their coats, their furniture and the dinner which they were partook in were all imaginary.  The script was so good, it could stand on its own with those witty conversations and bitter arguments from the mouths of talented actors.  Such is the good fortune of Rem Zamora in his directorial debut. He intuitively knew that in stage a play like this, less is more. 

With his wide-eyed earnest face, Topper Fabregas seems to be really born to play these lost, naive and innocent characters.  Such were his roles in Repertory Philippines' "Boeing Boeing" and "The Producers".  He adds more dimensions to this type of character with his role here as John in "Cock."  He has a difficult decision to make, and we are all eager to know how he will decide.  Fabregas succeeds to draw us into his unenviable predicament and his difficult choice.

I do not think I have seen Jenny Jamora in a play before.  She is positively delightful as W.  She needed to project such unique feminine charms to actually convince us that a professed gay man fall in lust (and possibly even love) with her.  Jamora does just that.

I also have not seen Niccolo Manahan act before.  As M, he was really good being controlling and condescending before towards John. Now, as he desperately tries to win John back, he could not resist provoking an "ultimate bitch fight" to the end. Manahan has his claws out!

Veteran actor Audie Gemora plays M's supportive dad F. I have always seen Gemora in an offbeat period role in a musical, like Sweeney Todd or Roger De Bris (in "The Producers"). I think this would be the first time I have seen him in a modern role in a straight play.  This man is really so versatile. His sense of comedic timing is really on point, so funny.  

Congratulations to Rem Zamora and the rest of the Red Turnip behind the scenes crew for the success of "Cock".  Looking forward to their next production as they enter their second season later this year. More power to Red Turnip Theater!

"Cock" will be staged at Whitespace (2314 Chino Roces Ave. Extension, Makati) on March 7, 14, 21 , 28 and April 4 (Fridays, 9 pm); March 8, 15, 29 and April 5 (Saturdays, 8 pm); March 9, 16, 23 and April 6 (Sundays, 4 pm).  There will also be a 4 pm show on Saturday April 5, and a special closing gala on Sunday April 6, 8 pm.

Tckets are available through TicketWorld (891-9999 or or email Red Turnip Theater via

Monday, March 3, 2014

Recap of OSCAR SHOW 2014: Of Pizzas and Selfies

March 3, 2014

Ellen Degeneres is the Oscar host for a second time.  No big musical number to open the show, just a light-hearted funny monologue like only Ellen can deliver.  Her funniest line for me came at the end of her spiel:  "Jonah Hill.. You showed me something in that film I haven't seen for a very long time!" LOL!

Anne Hathaway presents Best Supporting Actor. Award goes to Jared Leto, as expected. Got it! Leto, whom Ellen called the "prettiest" of the night, was far and away the favorite among the four nominees. He dedicated his award to his mother, who was a single parent. It was all very touching. He also even thought of dedicating his award to Ukraine and Venezuela too. 

Jim Carrey mimics Bruce Dern, not too funny. He introduces a tribute to animated movie heroes, from the Incredibles to Gru. Ellen noted there was no "Finding Nemo" in the montage.

The very pregnant Kerry Washington introduces Pharell Williams to sing "Happy" as the first Best Song nominee. He has his signature hat again this time. He was able to get everyone up on their feet and dance -- even the big superstars!  Earlier at the red carpet, Pharell wore shorts with his tux, causing a fashion ruckus.

Samuel L. Jackson and Naomi Watts present Costume, Hair and Makeup. Costume goes to The Great Gatsby (Got it wrong. Too bad I changed my first guess!) Oh, the winner is Baz Luhrmann's wife! She got her speech out from her bra. Hair and Makeup goes to Dallas Buyers Club, as expected. Got that right. No way the award is going to a "Jackass" film.  Too bad "American Hustle" was not nominated.

A laconic Harrison Ford presents three Best Pic nominees: "American Hustle", "Dallas Buyers Club", "Wolf of Wall Street".

Channing Tatum introduces six young filmmakers who won a short film competition, calling them Team Oscar.

Kim Novak and Matthew McConaughey present animation awards. Ms. Novak's stretched-out facial skin and horse voice are scary.  Animated Short award goes to "Mr. Hublot." Animated Feature goes to "Frozen". But of course! Got first wrong, but the second one correct.

Sally Field presents a montage of regular people who become film heroes. These include Lincoln, Norma Rae, Atticus Finch, Mr. Tibbs, Solomon Northup, etc...

Emma Watson and Joseph Gordon Levitt for Visual Effects. Oscar goes to "Gravity"! I got it.

Zac Efron introduces Karen O singing the "Moon Song" from "Her" (VIDEO). She was in a scarlet ball gown.  She was singing while sitting on the steps of the stage beside an acoustic guitarist. What an enchanting voice she has!

Kate Hudson and Jason Sudekis present awards for Short Films. Live Action goes to "Helium". Documentary Short Subject award goes to "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life." It was touching to know that the subject of the film just recently died at age 110. Lucky guess on "Helium", and images shown make me want to watch it. Got the second one wrong, though I would have picked it had I known it was about a Holocaust survivor.

Bradley Cooper for Documentary Feature. Winner is "20 Feet from Stardom". Have to watch that now. Documentary subject Darlene Love belted out her thanks via song on behalf of backup singers!

Kevin Spacey presents Governors Award to Angela Lansbury and Steve Martin. The Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Award goes to Angelina Jolie.

Ewan Mc Gregor and Viola Davis for Foreign Language Film. Oscar goes to "The Great Beauty" This is the 11th Oscar for Italy, first since Life is Beautiful. Got this one correct.

Tyler Perry presents three more nominees for Best Pic: "Nebraska", "Her" and "Gravity".

Ellen comes out in a white tux. Introduces a man who needs no introduction -- Brad Pitt. Pitt introduces U2 who will perform next. Bono and the guys come up with an electrifying live rendition of "Ordinary Love"!

The Selfie of all Selfies

Ellen takes a selfie with Meryl Streep and other star nominees get into the photo too. Very nice moment. She wants it to be the most retweeted photo and succeeds. This post supposedly tied up Twitter for ten minutes.  I am wondering who on earth is that daring black guy on the right of Bradley Cooper?  He is no one I know, that is for sure.

Kristen Bell and Michael B. Jordan present the Science and Technology special awards.

Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron present for Sound. Sound Mixing award goes to "Gravity"! Sound Editing goes to "Gravity" as well! Very well deserved. Got both correct.

Christoph Waltz presents Supporting Actress award. Oscar goes to Lupita Nyong'o! Got it right, though I wanted JLaw to win. Lupita gives a very touching speech, "No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid!" 

Ellen brings a pizza guy in and distributes them among the superstars in the front rows! Another unprecedented stunt by Ellen.  Good thing the stars are game!  Including Harrison Ford and Meryl Streep.  Brad Pitt was up distributing plates. Leonardo di Caprio though declines when offered.

The Academy president gives her address.

Amy Adams and Bill Murray for Cinematography. Murray sneaks in attribute to Harold Ramis. Award goes to "Gravity"! Got that right.

Anna Kendrick ("The Cup Song" played in the background as she entered) and Gabourey Sidibe for Film Editing. Winner is "Gravity"! Got it! Cuaron's first Oscar but he failed to speak as his partner used up all the time.  I guess they somehow knew Cuaron had another award coming.

Whoopi Goldberg pays tribute to the 1939 classic "Wizard of Oz." She shows off her ruby slippers (and striped socks). Judy Garland daughter Liza Minneli and her siblings stand to be recognized. Introduced Pink to sing "Over the Rainbow" (VIDEO). Though it was not perfect in breath control, that was quite a passionate rendition she had.

Ellen comes out in a pink fairy costume. Now that was corny! 

Jennifer Garner and Benjamin Cumberbatch for Production Design. Winner is "The Great Gatsby" again! Got this one. Double win for Catherine Martin, who also won for Costume earlier. She is the first woman to win two awards in one Oscar night on two different years. She first won a double before for "Moulin Rouge".

Chris Evans presents montage of fictional films heroes: Captain America. Harry Potter. Bond. Superman. Katniss, and many more.

Glenn Close introduces the In Memoriam segment. Background song playing was "Somewhere in Time." Among the famous names on the list were: James Gandolfini. Karen Black. Paul Walker. Annette Funicello. Peter o' Toole. Ray Harryhausen. Roger Ebert. Shirley Temple. Joan Fontaine. Harold Ramis. Eleanor Parker. Julie Harris. Maximillian Schell. Esther Williams. Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Bette Midler comes out to sing "Wind Beneath My Wings" (VIDEO). She looks and sounds very good despite a long absence in the public eye. Standing ovation. Bette in tears.

Ellen introduces Goldie Hawn to present last three Best Pic nominees: "Philomena", "Captain Phillips", and "12 Years a Slave". The formerly ever-young-looking Ms. Hawn was not looking too good this year. Does "12 Years" being presented last mean something? Hmmmm....

John Travolta says a totally different name (massive fail!) when he introduces Idina Menzel to sing "Let It Go"! She was really straining in that last high note. She did not seem too pleased with her performance. But the audience gives her a standing ovation anyway for her valiant effort to sing that impossibly difficult song.

Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel for Original Score. Oscar goes to "Gravity"! Got that correct! That film had incredible music really!

For Original Song, the winner is "Let It Go"! Fil-Am composer Robert Lopez is now an EGOT! He delivered a very sprightly speech with his wife and co-winner Kristen. I thought U2 would pull a surprise as they are super popular, and their song was also very good.

Ellen passes Pharell's hat around to get money for the pizza. Harvey Weinstein gives $200. Brad Pitt grudgingly gave three $20 bills.  Lupita Nyong'o donated a bottle of her makeup, which Ellen puts in her pocket.

Robert De Niro and Penelope Cruz for Writing. Adapted Screenplay for "12 Years a Slave". Original Screenplay for "Her"! Spike Jonze first Oscar. I got it two for two!

Angelina Jolie and Sidney Poitier come on stage. Standing ovation! It has been 50 years since Poitier won his Oscar. Best Director goes to Alfonso Cuaron for "Gravity", as expected. Now finally he gets to deliver his acceptance speech.

Daniel Day Lewis presents Best Actress to Cate Blanchette. Standing ovation. Gave tributes to all co-nominees one by one, which was nice. Calling Julia Roberts, she said "Hashtag suck it! You know what that means!" Whatever that meant, it got a good laugh.

Matthew McConaughey

America's "other sweetheart" (according to Ellen) Jennifer Lawrence gives the Best Actor Oscar to Matthew Mc Conaughey! Never thought that would ever happen. But I got it correct, though I would have liked Leonardo di Caprio to win. McConaughey seemed ready for his win, having a great acceptance speech about someone to look up to (God), and someone to chase (him in 10 years), capping it with his signature "alright, alright, alright."

Will Smith presents Best Picture. The Oscar goes to "12 Years a Slave"! Now that was unexpected given the six other Oscars "Gravity" won today. I did not like "12 Years" very much.  I did not think it really added anything new to how slavery film had been done before.  This so unlike the cinematic frontiers that a film like "Gravity" crossed. This was a downer for me as the ceremony wound up. Totally shut out of awards were "American Hustle", "Nebraska" and "Captain Phillips", despite multiple nominations.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review of Repertory Phil.'s AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY: A Family's Nervous Breakdown

March 1, 2014

"August: Osage County" is a multi-award winning play by Terry Letts. In 2007, the year it made its Broadway debut, it also won Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards for Best Play, Best Director (Anna D. Shapiro) and Best Actress (Deanna Dunagan).  It also won for its playwright the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This year, it is the second play produced in the current season of Repertory Philippines.

I had already seen the Oscar-bait film version released last year starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts before I saw the play today.  Frankly, I was afraid this local stage production will find it hard to match the high acting standard set by the ensemble of actors in this film. It would be difficult to watch this play and not compare how the characters were portrayed by the various actors.  I am happy to report that the ever-reliable cast and crew of Repertory Philippines more than managed to hold their own.  

This play is set in a small Oklahoma town on one warm summer. Violet Weston reunites with her three willful daughters, Barbara, Ivy and Karen, when there was an unexpected death in the family. Fireworks fly when family secrets are revealed as mother and daughters clash, dragging the rest of the family along in their downward spiral.

At the matinee today, the role of Violet, the dysfunctional wife and mother made worse by her dependency on drugs given for her oral cancer, was played by Shiela Francisco. I must confess that I was disappointed I was not going to see Ms. Baby Barredo play Violet. However, as the first act got going, Ms. Francisco had us all mesmerized by the sadistic web she is spinning. She owned that pivotal second act set around the lunch table completely. Ms. Francisco is more known as a singer, but she really acted the hell out of Violet today, effectively showing vulnerability under the tough cruel exterior. I hope Mr. Francisco also gets her due recognition come awards time, as Ms. Barredo surely will.

Pinky Amador plays the eldest daughter Barbara. Her exasperation about her mother's drug habit makes her blow her top and all hell breaks loose. Ms. Amador is obviously a veteran the way she confidently throws her kilometric lines around so very effortlessly. This was despite the obvious fatigue it was causing her voice by the third act.  Ms. Amador will definitely follow-up her citations for Best Actress last year for "Piaf" with her performance here.

Barbara's family was played by relatively new actors. Kenneth Moraleda plays her estranged husband Bill Fordham, who dumped Barbara for one of his teenage students. His stage presence was a bit lacking, with hardly any chemistry with Ms. Amador. Thea Gloria plays her rebellious 14-year old daughter Jean, a film buff who already smoked cigarettes and marijuana. It took some getting used to hearing her grating singsong delivery of her lines, but she eventually grows on you.

Tami Monsod plays the middle daughter Ivy, who stayed in town to take care of her parents. Her character has secret dreams and desires that could not take off because she is trapped in her situation in life.  However well Monsod portrays that pain and frustration Ivy is going through, it cannot be denied that she looked too different from the other two actresses who were supposed to be her sisters.  She also looked older than Ms. Amador. This physical disconnect tended to be distracting.

Liesl Batucan is the natural choice to play the ever-optimistic youngest daughter, Karen. I love it when she plays these quirky and flighty characters. She is the welcome and delightful breath of fresh air on that ever-tense stage. This is another winning performance for Ms. Batucan just on the heels of her riveting lead role of Susie in "Wait Until Dark" last month. Karen's fiancé Steve was effectively played with swagger and sleaze by Hans Eckstein. You can feel him ooze perversity.

Violet's fussy and nosy sister Mattie Fay was played by Mayen Bustamante-Cadd. This feisty lady could really throw a tornado of her own with her own tirades and secrets. Aside from playing Violet, Sheila Francisco also plays Mattie Fay when Ms. Barredo plays Violet. That is really a very impressive feat for Ms. Francisco, having to know the lines of two difficult characters by heart. 

Matty Fay's kind husband Charles is played by Richard Cunanan. Mr. Cunanan, whose very Filipino surname belies his Caucasian face, is a cool actor I have admired from before when I saw him in Dulaang UP's "Duchess of Malfi". He definitely shines in his two featured moments: saying grace in a family meal, and confronting his wife about her cruelty to their son. Their son, the shy and insecure "Little" Charles, is sensitively played by Noel Rayos.  

As Johnna, the Native American household help hired by Mr. Weston, indie film darling princess Angeli Bayani makes her Rep stage debut.  Her quiet and restrained acting style contrasts so differently from the other more flamboyant styles on stage. I sometimes felt that she felt ill at ease with the other cast members, or maybe she was too much in her alienated and detached character.

Arnel Carrion plays the county sheriff and Barbara's former prom date Deon Gilbeau.  He felt a bit too self-conscious on stage, tending to have a pompous posture while delivering his lines.  He did have chemistry with Pinky Amador during their sweet scene together.

Leo Rialp plays Violet's alcoholic husband Beverly Weston with such natural cynicism and world-weariness.  His character would only be visible on stage during the fifteen-minute prologue, with practically only him rambling about poet T.S. Eliot and how life is very long. But we will remember him throughout the play.

All these darkly hilarious depressing family squabbling goes on for more than three hours. There were three acts all about an hour long, with two intermissions.  The first intermission was only five minutes long, hardly time for you to go out to do anything except stretch your legs. The second intermission was only ten minutes. I absolutely did not feel the time fly by. I was relieved though that I had decided to watch the matinee, or else I would have to be coming home after midnight.

I really enjoyed the witty wordplay in all their bitterness and spite throughout the play. This very sharp and rapid exchange of words is the best part of the play. There were several monologues of the various characters which may last ten minutes or more with complex vocabulary. It was amazing how these actors nary flubbed any of their complicated lines, all while staying consistent to their American South accents. Those word battles were so crisp and biting with profanity. This play is for mature audiences only.

The set designed by Miguel Faustmann is quite effective as the silent witness to all the family conflicts it housed. How I wished the dining table was in Center Stage instead of Stage Left during Act 2, but I guess it was not too easy to move it around. 

Congratulations to Director Chris Millado and the rest of the Repertory Philippines cast and crew for their successful and very effective staging of this incisive and acerbic modern play. The spontaneous standing ovation after the show was so well-deserved.

“August: Osage County” runs for two more weekends until March 16 at OnStage, 2/F, Greenbelt 1, Makati City. Call 5716926 or 5714941; or visit or their Facebook page for further details.