Saturday, October 31, 2015

Review of Artist Playground's AUDIRE: Sonic Sponteneity

October 31, 2015

This latest project of Artist Playground is a very unique one. It is a one-woman show entitled "Audire (Listen Carefully)". I purposely did not read any advanced information about it because I wanted to be surprised. It turned out though, that maybe I should have read some background about it. I would have been able to appreciate the project more. 

The show opened in total darkness. Four ladies in black came out shaking boxes. When they reached the stage, they placed various items (like toys, accessories, household items, etc...) on the floor upstage. (They would give her different props in each of her four segments in this show.) Enter Ms. Angelina Kanapi in a white dress. She began playing around with the stool and the other things there on the stage.  Her unusual choice of words seemingly meant nothing, a flight of ad-libbed ideas. Her strange gestures and facial expressions all seemed as random as her props. 

That first segment was very bizarre. There were a lot of incomplete words and phrases. I do not remember much of it. The second segment, we see Ms. Kanapi strumming chairs like a guitar. I felt she meant to act like a drugged out rock star. Finally, after singing what sounded like a Nirvana song, she collapse and convulsed on the floor, then lights out. The third segment, we see Ms. Kanapi tie her hair into to pigtails and begin talking like a bratty child to her yaya. She began jumping up and down as a tot in a tantrum shouting words so foul they sounded so funny. The fourth segment, we see Ms. Kanapi in an sultry and earthy mood. This final part felt like a frank excerpt from the "Vagina Monologues".

Then it was over. I am not going to pretend I totally got what just transpired in the last hour. After the curtain call, Ms. Kanapi thanked the staff who helped her with the show. She was joined on the stage by the artistic director of Artist Playground Roeder Camanag, on behalf of show director Jeffrey Camanag who was sick today. They engaged the audience in a post-show discussion about the performance. In most shows, the play proper was enough to speak for itself. For this particular experimental type of production, this Q&A session was a most essential part to grasp the whole meaning of the show and its very special concept.

It was only a post-show realization for me that Ms. Kanapi totally improvised everything she was doing based on the sounds (music, sound effects, noises, whispers, moans, silence) she heard. This meant that the whole show was actually extemporaneous on Ms. Kanapi's part based on the totally random sounds given her by the sound technician. Every show then will be not be the same as the one before. I did not spoil anything for you by telling you what happened in the show I watched. You will see a totally different one every time. This was an eye-opening revelation that made me see the whole performance in a whole new light. This show was not a case of the schizophrenic emperor's new clothes.

So that is what the title meant. Ms. Kanapi should listen carefully to the soundtrack to react to and spontaneously perform. The audience should listen carefully to the soundtrack to understand where Ms. Kanapi and her various strange antics were coming from. 

It was a delight to see Ms. Kanapi performing live.This prime collaboration with the sound man is a pet concept that had been playing in her mind, only to find fruition now thanks to the exploratory thrust of Artist Playground. I knew Ms. Kanapi from her most unusual and quirky roles in indie films I've seen, like "Hustisya" (My Review) with Nora Aunor, a couple Lav Diaz opuses namely "Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan" (My Review) and "Mula Sa Kung Ano ang Noon" (My Review), and just this week "Matangtubig" (My Review).  I cannot think of another actress with such a wacky, unconventional yet intuitive soul who can pull this daring type of performance art off. 


If you want to experience this different type of theater, you can catch the last few shows of "Audire". There is one show on November 4, 2015 at 7pm, then three shows on November 7, 2015 at 3, 5, and 7pm. Tickets at P250. Students only pay P200. Venue of the show is The Little Room Upstairs, Rm. 1701 Landsdale Tower, Mother Ignacia Ave. Quezon City. Look up Ms. Roj Regoso on Facebook for inquiries and reservations.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Review of Dulaang UP's HARING LEAR: Campy and Colorful

October 24, 2015

Afraid that his end is near, King Lear decided to divide his kingdom among his three daughters. The elder two, Goneril and Regan, praise him to high heavens, and they got to divide the kingdom between them. The youngest Cordelia was more reserved with her answer, which disappointed the king no end, resulting in her banishment from the kingdom. Not long after, the true evil natures of Goneril and Regan show and they banish the king himself into the wilderness. The king goes mad with extreme grief.

"King Lear" as written by William Shakespeare is a very complex tragedy. Not only do we see the drama between Lear and his daughters, but there are several subplots woven around this main story. The daughters also have their respective husbands with their own political ambitions. There was also another brewing drama about a family close to the king -- the Duke of Gloucester and his two sons, the loyal legitimate son Edgardo and the power-hungry illegitimate one Edmundo. 

For this Dulaang UP version I watched, the new Filipino translation was by Nicolas Pichay, which was adapted and directed by Tony Mabesa. To set it apart from other local stagings of this same play, it was decided to employ a Southeast Asian motif to the set and costumes. The backdrop set pieces by Ohm David were inspired by the temple ruins in Siem Reap, Cambodia with its gnarled giant banyan roots. The colorful costumes by Eric Pineda were mostly Thai in design, with elements of Chinese and Balinese in others. The overall effect of the language, set and costumes was very striking, although a disconnect can be felt when the place names mentioned remain to be British, like Kent, Cornwall or Dover. 

Film director Joel Lamangan takes on the role of King Lear in this Filipino version. Lamangan played Lear in such a open and light manner that it was easy for audiences to connect with him and his character's plight. This kind of over-the-top acting style and melodramatic line deliveries became appropriate though when seen in the light of Lear's eventual madness. Albeit uneven and hammy, the deterioration of Lear's dignity and mental stability was very well-conveyed this way.

Because she is quite petite, I was surprised when it was Martha Comia who played the eldest daughter Goneril. Comia always plays a vixen in her various UP roles and her Goneril was another one. While this one was truly contemptible, the way Comia played her was still such a delight to watch. Astarte Abraham I first saw as Madre de Dios in "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady" earlier this year. As she played the equally hateful Regan this time (and she was very good at it, mind you, with her very expressive face), I was worried about how all the shouting she needed to do for this role may affect her amazing singing voice. Chesca Ostrea was a very pretty, fresh-faced Cordelia, but she was still stumbling with her lines despite this being the last weekend of the show's run.

The best overall performance for me for the whole show was given by Jojo Cayabyab as the Earl of Gloucester. This actor was consistently tops in his intense delivery of lines, in true Shakespearean style. He never went out of character even once from beginning to end. His best scene were those during and after when certain injuries were inflicted to his face. The technique of how the production achieved the effect of this scene was stunning. 

Edmundo was played by Brian Sy. Sy clearly played this villainous and amorous role with relish. He possesses the duplicitous charm required to make this role convincing. He even shocked the audience with a kissing scene with an unexpected partner. Edgardo was played by Carlo Tarobal. This role was done so awkwardly, especially in those scenes when Edgardo pretended to be the madman Tomas. Of course, the role is attention-grabbing no doubt, but I only found it all very awkward. Tarobal's difficulty in drawing out his sword drew giggles in what should have been dramatic moments.

I could not help comparing this production with the one by PETA staged 2012, just three years ago. The Filipino translation staged then was by Bienvenido Lumbera and the show was directed by Nonon Padilla. That version with an all-bald, all-black, all-male cast was much darker, more intense and very serious. It also had a real thunderstorm with water right there on the stage! (My review of that show was posted HERE.) 

However, this DUP production had its own charm by being the naughtily campier and more vibrantly colorful version. Fresh from the innovative postmodern take on "Romeo and Juliet" in their last show "R </3 J", with this production of "Haring Lear" in Filipino, DUP created yet another fresh and entertaining interpretation of a classic Shakespearean tragedy.

True to DUP tradition, there is a parallel English version of "King Lear" in straight Shakespeare. This one stars Leo Rialp as King Lear, with Frances Makil-Ignacio, Jeremy Domingo, Guelan Luarca among others in the alternate cast. That promises to be a totally different viewing experience from this Filipino version.


"King Lear" opened last October 7, 2015. It will have two last shows on October 25, 2015. The 10 am show will be the Filipino version, and the final show at 3pm will be the English version. Show runs at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater. In celebration of DUP's 40th anniversary this year, they had a slideshow showing notable actors who had performed with DUP over its past 40 years. That slideshow alone is an interesting must-see for theater fans.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Review of TP's MGA BUHAY NA APOY: Folklore, Fabrications and Family

October 17, 2015

"Mga Buhay na Apoy" just won the First Prize for a Full Length Play in the 2015 Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature for playwright/director Auraeus Solito. Since 2013, Mr. Solito went by the spirit-tribal name of Kanakan-Balintagos (Hunter of Truth). "Buhay" is a play he wrote back in 1994, but the manuscript got misplaced, only to resurface 20 years later.

His most famous movie would be his first feature film "The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros", a winner of several international awards. His latest film was "Esprit de Corps" which won him the Best Director Award in last year's Cinema One Originals Film Festival. "Esprit" is an adaptation of the first play he ever wrote at the age of 17. After watching "Buhay," I think it may just follow in the footsteps of "Esprit" and get a film version of its own.

Irma Adlawan and Malou Crisologo

Leda Santos was very excited that her estranged daughter Aurora Alba was moving back home. To welcome her back, Leda hosted a family get-together in their spacious garden at their mansion in Sampaloc. Invited are Leda's sisters, Lili and Selmah, and their respective families. Leda's artist son Aran was also happy that his sister is coming home, but he was constantly at odds with his mother, even during the party itself. The deeper the night got and the conversations got more intense, long-repressed family secrets all come spilling out, threatening to rip the broken family further apart.

Carol Bello and Lhorvie Nuevo

It is clearly seen from the script that Kanakan-Balintagos loves his home province of Palawan. This play not only boasts of Palawan's rich flora and fauna, we also get a profound glimpse into its rich folkloric and cultural legacy. Leda and her sisters were originally from a remote island in Palawan. Lili and apparently even Leda herself were shaman priestesses back then, probably inspired by the author's own uncle who was a shaman. The show opens with haunting Palawanon chants sung with the powerful voice of Carol Bello. We will also see a Palawan diwata lurking around their garden, played by Lhorvie Nuevo.

Irma Adlawan is a respected award-winning actress of film and television. However, this is the first time I was going to see her act live on stage in the lead role of Leda, which is one big reason why I really wanted to catch this play. For the most part of the play, we only hear people talk about Leda, a mother who cannot seem to get close with her children. But It is only in the second half of the climactic and critical Act 3 that we see the full dramatic power that Ms. Adlawan is known for. 

Bello, Crisologo, Adlawan, Gaerlan, O'Hara, Legaspi

The quiet and mysterious elder sister Lili was played by Carol Bello. Her chanting is truly unforgettable. Her much younger husband Benj was played by TP stalwart Jonathan Tadioan, who was as natural as he always was onstage. 

The hearty and jolly younger sister Selmah was played by Malou Crisologo, who is a familiar face on TV. Crisologo was a shining bright light on the constant dark scenario playing onstage. 13-year old Kyrie Samodio played Selmah's daughter Topaz, curious and wise for her years. JV Ibesate plays her boyfriend Ringgo in an oddly childish portrayal.

Veteran actress Peewee O'Hara and another TP regular Doray Dayao play the domestic helpers Yaya Naty and Aling Gusing. 

Karen Guerlan and Russell Legaspi

Karen Gaerlan effectively played her troubled character Aurora Alba, who turned out to be the voice of reason in the play. On the other hand, Russell Legaspi seemed to be having a harder time connecting to his troubled character of Aran. As the only male major character, Legaspi's acting was rather tentative amidst the powerful portrayal of the ladies. This felt as uncomfortable as the braids on his head. It was not easy to connect with his character.

The stage design by noted landscape architect Paulo Alcazaren, who had to build a garden with a huge tree as the centerpiece right there on the stage of the Little Theater. The emotive lighting design was by the multi-talented Dennis Marasigan, whom I only knew before as actor, director and writer. 

Traditional Palawan Greeting Gesture at the Curtain Call

The entire first two acts were but an extended introduction to the main meat of the play in the explosive Act 3. In fact, Act 3 alone is already worth the price of admission for the impressive flow of the dialogue and the array of fine acting on display. Kanakan-Balintagos has written and told an intricate story about how a life full of pain, heartache and suffering in one person affected the life of every person in her immediate family, mixed in with Palawan folklore. This is an uncommonly powerful piece of Filipino theater with distinct ethnic pride. Kudos!


"Mga Buhay na Apoy" opened last October 2 and will run weekends up to October 25, 2015 at the Little Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Remaining shows on October 18, 23, 24 and 25, 2015, with 8pm shows on Fridays and Saturdays and 3pm matinee shows on Saturdays and Sundays. For tickets, call TicketWorld: 891.9999 | CCP Box Office: 832.3704 or Tanghalang Pilipino: 0917-8763678 | 0908-8941384.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review of Ballet Phils' SARONG BANGGI: Folk Songs and Family Bonds

October 16, 2015

Honestly, I had no idea what "Sarong Banggi" was going to be about when I decided to go watch it. I just knew that Maestro Ryan Cayabyab himself is going to be conducting the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, and for me that was enough reason. The orchestra will be playing Filipino folk songs arranged and orchestrated by Mr. Cayabyab to accompany newly-choreographed ballet numbers rendered by the dancers of Ballet Philippines.

Maestro and the Orchestra

The story opens with a lone female dancer in white, who was later joined by a number of dancers in colorful costumes, as if preparing for a party. They carry the girl in white upward and into their midst. When the crowd cleared, the young girl in white had become an older lady in red. This would just be the first among several magical numbers performed tonight. 

The Set Design of Ohm David

The lady in red is Pilar, who is celebrating her birthday with her grown-up children and her friends. She is notably lonely and aloof, despite the celebrations going on around her, ostensibly because she is missing her husband Jose, the man in blue. Pilar reminisces on her youth (represented by the girl in white) and how she met the young Jose (represented by the boy in white). She recalled their times together, idyllic and otherwise.

Rita Angela Winder

The older Pilar was portrayed by the always-elegant Soloist Rita Angela Winder, while the older Jose is portrayed by no less than Principal Dancer Jean Marc Cordero. Their maturity and dancing skills were unquestionably ideal for these lead roles. Winder, in particular, had a very expressive face. She conveyed her character's loneliness, anguish and longing so well, we can feel her pain, especially in what I felt was her best number "Walay Angay" (choreographed by Nonoy Froilan), which depicted the suffering of wronged women. 

Winder and Jean Marc Cordero (foreground)
with Timothy Paul Cabrera and Jemima Reyes (background)

For me though, the more memorable dance performances were delivered by the young Pilar and Jose, portrayed by the petite and pretty Junior Soloist Monica Amanda Gana and the dashing and energetic Junior Principal Dancer Earl John Arisola. These two had a very electric chemistry between them. You can already feel it in their first number together, the big "West Side Story"-inspired "Salidumay" (choreographed by Ronelson Yadao). Their passionate pas de deux number "Malinac Lay Labi" (choreographed by Carissa Adea) was most beautifully executed.

Monica Amanda Gana and Earl John Arisola

Among the familiar folk songs recognized were "Ati Cu Pung Singsing", "Dalagang Pilipina", "Si Felimon", "Usahay", "Sampaguita" and of course the title song "Sarong Banggi" which closes the first act. The spectacularly joyful finale, featuring a garden full of kites flying, was set to the tune of Nonoy Gallardo's modern folk song "Saranggola ni Pepe" (choreographed by Carlo Pacis). The other choreographers involved were Principal Soloist Cyril Aran Fallar (who also played Jose's friend Felimon) and BP Artistic Director Paul Alexander Morales (who also directed this project). 

"Saranggola ni Pepe"

The arrangements of Maestro Cayabyab and the playing of the PPO were of course flawless. Special mention goes to the lady on the xylophone whose crystalline notes were distinctly heard above the rest.

Rajo Laurel and Dennis Marasigan

Very remarkable was the striking costume design of Rajo Laurel with his delightful play on colors. Respected theater and film director Dennis Marasigan wrote a simple yet affecting libretto for the story told by the dances. The set design by Ohm David was so picturesque in its deceptive simplicity. Creating an effective visual illusion on huge stage of the CCP Main Theater is by no means an easy task. 

Winder and Gana welcome Maestro Cayabyab

Overall, this was a very satisfying, very colorful and entertaining show. The start may be slow, but once you get the drift of the story, you will definitely get drawn in and touched emotionally. You will leave the show with a smile on your face.

Arisola, Gana, Winder, Cordero
with Sir Nonoy Froilan


"Sarong Banggi" will have a very limited run this weekend only for just four performances. There will be two performances on October 17, 2015, at 2pm and 6pm, and one final performance on October 18, 2015, at 2pm. Ticket prices range from P1,500 to P400, with 50% off for students. Please call (02) 551-1003, email, or PM on for more info.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Recap of THE AMAZING MENSA RACE 2: Fighting Frustration

September 28, 2015

The first Amazing Mensa Race was held May 2014. We joined it, ran and did challenges all over Bonifacio Global City, and ultimately lost. However, it was a great exhilarating experience which we hoped will happen again.

Teasers for the Amazing Mensa Race 2 were initially posted just 2 weeks prior to the race itself. Those two weeks were very busy for both me and my cousin Harry so we were not able to register right away. Harry even had to register while he was in Hong Kong, just three days before the race proper. We also had to have a third member this time. So, I asked my daughter Haley to join us. We hastily called ourselves The H Team.

This new race promised to be a much bigger, more exciting one. The first clue was that it was going to start at Kilometer 0, which meant the Rizal Monument. We did not have time to coordinate outfits for this one. We decided to go all-neon on suggestion by my wife. 

Going to the race, I already felt this will not be an easy race for our team. Globe was having a system upgrade that day, so I was not able to avail their Unli-Surf promo. Consequently, my daughter and I will not have internet on our phones. We will only be depending on cousin Harry's phone which had LTE.

We met all the other teams (10+ teams!) under the tree behind the clock across the street from the Rizal Monument. We just paid the registration fees there -- really last minute for everything. Our host Dr. Zoe gave us a brief orientation. This will only be a 4 hour race. She talked about the Cyburban app which will be giving us the tasks. We were told to be careful with our spelling because we lose points for every wrong answer given.

When it was time, we were lined up in front of the organizers, just like they do in the TV show. After the picture taking, Dr. Zoe gave the go signal. We all turned around and ran towards the Rizal Monument (across the street!) as instructed. The race was on! It really felt thrilling right there at the start.

First stop: RIZAL PARK!

When we reached the monument, we turned on the Cyburban app for the first question. From that start, our team already felt the difficulty of playing this race with only one phone with internet. The very first of the 15 trivia questions already had us stymied. It was looking for an island shaped like ginger between Panay and Siquijor. The first logical choice was Negros, but it was wrong. We tried Guimaras, Bohol, Cebu -- all wrong! 

It was then that we decided we really needed to go to the Philippine Map in the park to check this out. And it was on the other side of Rizal Park near Taft Avenue! When we got to the Map, we got the answer easily. It was Caluya Island. It was literally located between the Panay and Siquijor squares on the map legend on the poolside. And it had "luya" (or ginger) in its name. 

Aha! So this was the type of questions we were going to encounter, so the rest went on more smoothly. However, as the questions were revealed one by one (you can only open the next question when you answer the first question correctly), it required running back and forth the two parts of the park looking for data mostly on labels of sculptures. We knew what to do, but we had such a slow pace due to physical exhaustion. Very frustrating.

We spent a whopping two hours there in Rizal Park. We do not see any other racers anymore. Anyhow, we finished ALL the questions in that set and we're very proud of that. 

Next stop: INTRAMUROS!

In Intramuros, we were given certain sentences or phrases we had to fill up then get specified letters to form words. While we figured out the phrases, like those from the Reina Ysabel statue or the Urdaneta-Legaspi statue, we could never figure out the words to be formed from the marked letters! We also had a big error on reading the map coordinates given by a certain clue and we ended up in a totally different location, thus wasting a lot of time. We gave up on this stop. Very frustrating. 

Next Stop: BINONDO!

In Binondo, it was a Detour: PRODUCT or PRICE. If you choose "Product," they give us a certain product, then you have to find the store that sells it. If you choose "Price," they give us a product and store, and you need to find out the price. Logically, we chose to do "PRICE" because it sounds easier. 

The list of the stores brought us to Ongpin and Benavidez. The only thing that made it difficult was that certain products were out of stock! While the sales clerks at Wankee or 7-11 were able to name prices of products not on their shelves, Ongpin Supermarket could not give us the price of a 60 gm. bag of black champoy. The task was to send in the total of the prices of all 10 products, and just because of one absent price, it turns out we cannot give an accurate total. Very frustrating.

Next stops: FISHER MALL and PARKS AND WILDLIFE in Quezon City. 

Since it was already past 5 pm, we decided to forego these tasks and just head off directly to the final destination, All-American Burgers in MAGINHAWA ST. in Teachers Village. 

I have never been to that street ever before despite it being so popular with the foodies. 
We had trouble looking for the place, but we did find it. However, at the last moment, I was called home for an important domestic matter so we did not go up anymore. Too bad, we did not get to know and congratulate the winners and the organizers personally. We were not able to discuss the race experience with the other racers or ask what those mystery words were in the Intramuros challenge.

When we got back home, my cousin messaged me that he was in fact receiving texts from the organizers, but these were on the cell phone he did NOT bring. So we did not know that it was physically impossible to do ALL of the tasks, and we were supposed to strategize how to use our time. We were also not aware that there was only one hour left and we should wind up and head back to Maginhawa. Frustrating to the very end.

Anyhow, important lessons were learned in this race in terms of technical preparedness. We were fighting frustration all the way because of this severe limitation. We will definitely be back (and hopefully more prepared) for the next race.