Thursday, July 7, 2016

Review of VIRGIN LABFEST XII - SET C: Excellence in Extremes

July 7, 2016

The emotions on this extraordinary Virgin Labfest XII set went to extremes: from romantic regrets to fundamentalist fear to exhilarating fun. Amazing writing, directing and acting talent all around, a consistently excellent set.


Written by: Ma. Cecilia "Maki" dela Rosa
Directed by: Ariel Yonzon

Jean receives a phone call while watching a war film. Suddenly she was visited by Cage, her superior while she was a member of the armed resistance. Cage and his wife Lara officiated Jean's wedding to Brad. Much later, Jean also receives a visit from Ted, her closest friend among her rebel colleagues. While Jean talked about her current time apart from her husband, secrets from the past are revealed. 

This is yet another VLF play with characters who were armed rebels (or used to be). I note that this is a popular theme among VLF entries. However, in this play, this occupation did not seem entirely necessary for the main plot, which was a frustrated love story, except perhaps to break the stereotype that these female warriors were man-hating amazons. What is not to love about Sheenly Vee Gener's emotionally-rich, very natural performance? Aldo Vencilao may not immediately strike you as the typical leading man, but he certainly had an electric chemistry with Gener that generated a unique romantic thrill with the audience. The Cynthia Alexander song they sang together as a duet in perfect harmony could melt hearts.


Written by: Guelan Luarca
Directed by: Mara Paulina Marasigan

Two 12-year old boys had a big fight. John Paul took the Koran of his Muslim classmate Ahmad and desecrated it by throwing it on the floor, spitting on it and tearing out the pages. Incensed, Ahmad pushes the errant boy too strongly causing a freak injury that lands the John Paul in critical condition. The boys' adviser Mr. Arevalo met with Ahmad's father, Mr. Sampurnay, about this accident and its repercussions. However, the father remained adamant about his religious convictions about the case.

This was a play that was so difficult to watch because of the intense conflict it presented to us. Luarca was very brave to take on such a sensitive and potentially incendiary topic around which to base his one-act play. The performance of Renante Bustamante as the Ahmad's father was so chillingly realistic that I could hardly bear to look at his face during the play. Kalil Almonte portrayed the nervous confusion any teacher would feel when engaged in an emotionally-charged conversation such as this with a headstrong parent. The tension developed by director Mara Marasigan was so thick. The ending was such a powerful shock. The whole theater suddenly fell silent at that moment.


Written by: Carlo Vergara
Directed by: Hazel Gutierrez

Gorio and Lilia had been married for a long time. Their son Jerome is already 15 years old. However lately, Gorio had been spending weeks on end out of town, such that Lilia had to practically raise Jerome on her own. One day, mysterious events forced Gorio to confess his real nature and what he had been doing all along. Even Jerome knew about it. What Gorio tells Lilia was so preposterous, she simply could not believe a word he was saying.

Count on Carlo Vergara to submit the wackiest comedy in this year's VLF batch. The writer of "Zsazsa Zaturnnah" also gave us "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady" before. He revisits the same genre with this one, again with his trademark skills in madcap comedy. Director Gutierrez decided to use shadow play techniques to portray the supernatural aspects of the story, which added another dimension to her storytelling. 

Mayen Estanero was amazingly winning in her portrayal of the vivacious and gregarious mother, Lilia. She was such a warm presence onstage, we will all wish she was our own mother. Timothy Castillo was a natural comedian, unafraid to make fun of himself in his portrayal of the smart-aleck son Jerome, who loved his comic books more than homework. Tad Tadioan was a total fun riot as Gorio, a husband who had been keeping major secrets from his wife all these years. The actors played as one smooth seamless comic ensemble and the audience had a rollicking good time. 

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