July 3, 2014
Today, I was able to catch the last performance of Set D of the ongoing Virgin Labfest at the CCP. Unlike last Thursday, I did not have an easy time getting the tickets this time. I had to stand in line at the box-office for more than forty minutes, waiting for the last 10 minutes before showtime, in order to buy a ticket. It turned out they were waiting for festival ticket holders not to arrive before selling new tickets to walk-ins like me. There might be a better way of doing this next year. Anyway fortunately, the three new one-act plays staged today were all fortunately worth the wait.
1. SA LILIM
Written by Reya Mae Espiritu Laplana
Directed by Jenny Jamora
Two girls, Hani and Lai (played by Allison Segarra and Isabelle Martinez, respectively), who considered each other BFFs, reunite after a year of being apart. Lai went to pursue her high school in the big city, bringing with her the very bad habits she used to hate. Hani stayed in town, betrothed to be wed soon in order to settle a debt. Their reunion under their favorite star apple tree uncovers deep secrets they have never shared with each other.
This quiet provocative play was written by a 16-year old first time playwright in the person of Reya Laplana. In fact, she had classes today so she could not attend the performance of her own play. The topic was simple and the ending was actually visible from the very beginning. The remarkable achievement of the director Jenny Jamora was the successful creation of that thick atmosphere of tension that developed between the two characters and enveloped them before reaching that inevitable conclusion.
2. BAGO ILIBING
Written by U Z. Elizerio and Maynard Manansala
Directed by JK Anicoche
This play was set at the wake of Berto, brother of Felicia and uncle of Corinne. Felicia loved and admired her brother very much, wanting this wake to be a testament to his goodness. However, Corinne carried nothing but hate and repulsion for her dead uncle, who had sexually molested her when she was a child.
The play treated the proceedings with humor at first, mostly care of Corinne's nerdy lesbian girlfriend Angie (Opaline Santos) and her harassed barangay councilor mother Felicia (Hermie Concepcion). But the very serious and uncomfortable topic of the story cannot be denied. The ghost of the past is literally brought to life onstage with such vivid imagery, we can all feel Corinne's shame and rage as Sarah Salazar so shatteringly expresses them. Joel Seracho's sordid performance of the abominable Uncle Berto was a realistic horror to watch.
Written by J-Mee Katanyag
Directed by Ed Lacson, Jr.
The situation in this play is so deceptively simple that the synopsis can be summarized in a single sentence: Octogenarian Lola Betang waits for her former lover boy to fetch her with him in the next life. However, the multi-layered performance of Ms. Sherry Lara as the title character Betang was able to show us so much more than that. If there was a best actress for the festival, she would probably be one of the top contenders. The audience audibly responded to her, even when she was just batting her eyelashes or smiling coyly.
There was intense chemistry felt between Ms. Lara and the actor who played her long-awaited "sundo" (or, in Philippine superstition, a fetcher to the afterlife), Chino Veguillas. Veguillas possessed a palpable charisma that made many females in the audience swoon with Betang. That theme song of theirs, "I Wanna Be Loved By You" by Marilyn Monroe, was so hauntingly perfect. When they delivered those killer lines at the end, you'd have to be made of stone if you were not emotionally moved. Beautiful.