"The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is a famous and well-loved book. I know I have read it sometime in my ancient past, but I honestly do not remember what is was about at all. Tanghalang Pilipino currently has a Filipino-language play adapted from the beloved novel by prolific playwright Ms. Layeta Bucoy. I brought my daughter to watch with me because she just had a Filipino book report about this same novel.
In this play, Principe Munti is the ruler of a small planet with three volcanos, only two of which are active. It also has only one Rose which the Prince loved. She is of a rare beauty and fragrance, but of a rather self-centered and petulant sort. When his relationship with his Rose sours, the Prince decides to leave his planet to explore other worlds. He goes off from planet to planet, where he meets extreme sorts of people -- a President who always wanted to order others around, an Actress who always wanted people to admire her, a Drunkard, and a numbers-obsessed Businesswoman.
His journey brought him on Earth. There he befriends an Alamid (or Civet) who teaches him a vital lesson of seeing the most important things with his heart, not with his eye. Finally, he finds himself in a desert where he meets a Pilot whose plane crashed there. Before he leave to reunite with his Rose however, the Prince gets to impart to the Pilot the valuable lessons he had learned so far.
The conduct of the play was rather dark and contemplative, in contrast with most productions meant for children which were bright and cheery. The use of shadow puppetry by Teta Tulay (and the Anino Shadowplay Collective) to enhance the storytelling was the novelty here. The lighting effects by John Batalla was essential in delivering the dramatic interaction of live performances with the shadowplay behind the screens. The original music and songs of Toni Munoz was sparse in keeping with the play's style, but very effective in building up mood.
The script by Layeta Bucoy was lyrical and somber in tone like the spirit of the book, but rather uneven. I do not remember the book anymore so the progress of the story felt totally new to me, which was good. There were points when the dry humor could be lost on younger members of the audience. Adults and older kids may find more fulfillment watching this show than very young kids. There were points in the middle when the story would bog down, only dependent on the vitality of the actors to enliven the scenes.
The talented child actor Micko Laurente, all of 9 years old, was on stage the whole time and had to carry the show on his shoulders. This was a formidable role with lengthy lines of dialogue but Laurente pulled it off very well. His character is mostly reactive to the people he meets, so his performance was somehow affected by the performance of the actor with whom he is interacting. (Another child actor Allen Immanuel Ryce alternates in this role.)
Regina de Vera was a true vision of beauty as the Prince's Rose. Her pettiness though became tiresome and repetitive. Those encounters in the four planets with the strange adults went a bit too long for comfort and only mildly funny for the most part. There was a scene with another Rose on Earth that was so dreary and forgettable. The Prince's encounter with a train seemed unnecessarily long and pointless as well. Llorvie Nuevo's performance as the Snake was properly sinister,
However, it was Jonathan Tadioan who really hit it out of the park with his vibrant performance of the Alamid. This was the peak point of the whole show in its effective evocation of true joy and inspiration within his few minutes on stage with the Prince. Marco Viana was also very good as the Pilot. He has very effective chemistry with the Prince which is important to build up to the emotionally-shattering climax. I would say that these last 30 minutes or so contain the very beautiful heart and soul of the whole play, and most worthy of the ticket price paid.
Congratulations to the Director Tuxqs Rutaquio and the rest of the Tanghalang Pilipino cast and crew for creating another innovative and interesting play to develop the love of theater for Filipino children.
"Prinsipe Munti" runs from November 28 - December 7, 2014 with shows at 10 am, 2 pm ad 6 pm at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater). Tickets (P600, P800 and P1,000) are available through Tanghalang Pilipino (832-1125 loc 1620/1621 or 09052544930) or Ticketworld (891-9999 / www.ticketworld.com.ph).