For its season opener this year, Tanghalang Pilipino takes on William Shakespeare's popular comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream" using the Filipino translation done by no less than National Artist for Theater and Literature, Rolando Tinio. Instead of the Little Theater, this production was staged in the much smaller Tanghalang Huseng Batute (Studio Theater) which was surprising given the complex scope and big cast of this story.
However, upon entering the theater, the huge two-tiered stage design made the area look so much bigger than how it looked like when we watch Virgin Labfest shows. The backdrop design looked like houses rendered abstract and geometric, colorful and vibrant, with stylized green shrubbery in the foreground. After his awarded steampunk design for "Mabining Mandirigma," Toym Imao had again risen to the challenge, conquered and expanded the limited room and re-imagined Athens at the same time.
The Pyramus and Thisbe Scene
This was a very busy play with so many characters. There were two realms -- the human and the fairy. Teseo, duke of Athens, ravishes Hipolita, Amazon queen. Hermia loves Lisandro, but her father Egeo wants her to marry Demetrio, whom Helena is infatuated. There was a ragtag company of workers trying to stage their version of "Pyramus and Thisbe" for the duke's wedding. Meanwhile, Oberon, the King of the Fairies, wants to teach his proud wife Titania a lesson in humility. However, in fulfillment of his orders, Oberon's naughty servant Puck caused a major mix-up.
This was the first time I've seen local theater royalty Audie Gemora do a straight play in Filipino, and it was as fairy king Oberon to boot. This was the first time I had seen the ageless Jackie Lou Blanco act on stage, and her carriage onstage as Hipolita was nothing less than regal. This was the first time I had seen Richard Cunanan actually deliver lines in Filipino with his usual carefree insouciant air as Egeo.
Audie Gemora and Aldo Vencilao
There were five actors who really stood out in this production for me. Liesl Batucan was riveting, fierce and sexy as Titania. Jonathan Tadioan was pure mirthful joy as the foolish Bottom, Pyramo, and the jackass that he turned into. Marco Viana's performance of Lisandro under the magical flower's spell was delightfully ironic. Lhorvie Nuevo was so intensely moving as the desperate, and later the confused, Helena. Teroy Guzman is really a quintessentially elegant Shakespearean actor, however small his role here was as Teseo.
The rest of the main cast were played by the members of the TP Actors Company, like Aldo Vencilao (as Puck), Toni Go (as Hermia) and JV Ibesate (as Demetrio). Ybes Bagadiong (as Peter Quince), Joshua Tayco (as Starveling/Buwan) and Doray Dayao (as Snug/Leon) play the other wacky characters of the "Pyramus" crew, with guest actors Kristofer Kliatchko (scene-stealing as he played Snout/Pader) and Rafa Siguion-Reyna (in smeared lipstick and ragged drag as he played Flute/Thisbe). Monique Nellas, Eunice Pacia and Blanche Buhia play the fairy handmaidens of Titania (Agiw, Garbanzos and Mustasa, but I am not sure which one played which).
Jonathan Tadioan and Liesl Batucan
After an odd and rather violent opening scene, the comic premise of the play slowly unfolded until we are all caught up laughing in its gleeful clutches. Director Carlos Siguion-Reyna was sitting right in front of me during the show, and I saw that he was still laughing as the madcap show went along. I am guessing that the cast may be making impromptu comic ad-libs which make each show fresh. The costume design of James Reyes for the fairies, particularly Titania and her nymphs, played with bright colors, in contrast to most of the other noble characters in white (with black accents), and the workmen in shades of drab browns and dirty cream.
I was surprised when the play started with English lines. The rest of the play would be in Filipino, but the occasional English lines will still be delivered by some characters, which I imagine is a big challenge to memorize for those actors. That rollicking fun performance of "Pyramus and Thisbe" in the last act looked so natural as a disastrously amateur effort -- hilariously amazing! The show may be long (over 2-1/2 hours with a 10 minute intermission) and the language poetic (yet so refreshingly current), but overall it was mischievous fun, engaging and very entertaining -- another triumphant production by Tanghalang Pilipino! The happy and appreciative full house last night was proof of that.
The Cast and Director Take a Final Bow
The remaining shows of "Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw" are on: October 9, 2016 (Sunday) – 3PM, October 14, 2016 (Friday) – 8PM, October 15, 2016 (Saturday) – 3PM & 8PM and October 16, 2016 (Sunday) – 3PM. For tickets, call 832 1125 loc. 1620/1621 | 822 6920 or at TICKETWORLD 891 9999