July 5, 2017
The three one-act plays in Set C of this year's Virgin Labfest XIII all involve characters looking inside one's self while facing questions of integrity.
1. SI DR. DOLLY DALISAY AT ANG MGA LADYBUGS
Written by: Layeta Bucoy
Directed by: Jonathan Tadioan
Dr. Dolly Dalisay has a PhD in Entomology and has been researching about the agricultural value of ladybugs since her college days. She is on the verge of a big breakthrough discovery about the use of modified ladybugs in the control of the deadly tungro virus killing rice crops. Before she can get on with her project within the limited schedule set by her sponsor, she needs the approval of a contractual technician as soon as possible.
Unfortunately for Dolly, the contractual technician whose signature she needed on her report is her own mother Leticia with whom she had never been close to. Despite her very humble beginnings, Leticia is a stickler for small details of each project before she signs any report. However, on the day Dolly desperately needs her signature, Leticia was more focused on practicing a winning routine for the dancing contest she joined scheduled that night.
Ms. Celeste Legaspi looked so elegant as Leticia, I could not believe I'm hearing all the "jologs" things she was saying during this play. Her delivery of her Filipino lines was flawless, clear and crisp, it sounded so musical, despite the occasional dirty words. Her comic timing was on point the whole time, so delightful.
Dolly de Leon played the straight man in this two-handed dark comedy. It was remarkable how she had that sense of overconfident ambition, patronizing cynicism and wry sarcasm dripping from her every line. I loved how she enumerated her list of credentials and how she ranted against the BT Pechay project of her rival.
As a man of science myself, I was amazed at how playwright Layeta Bucoy came to write so frankly about disturbing issues of intellectual honesty and integrity in the field of science and technology, yet imbue it with a healthy sense of humor. I guess her being based in UP Los Banos gave her the necessary inspiration and resources she needed to knowledgably develop her story with sufficient scientific veracity.
There was a pool of water right there on the stage, about which I wondered about while the play was going on. When its turn in the story came up, what a big moment! It was definitely well worth the effort spent for that essential set piece. The execution of that multi-layered final scene was a triumph by director Tadioan and his stars.
2. ANG BATA SA BUS STOP
Written by: Sari Saysay
Directed by: Topper Fabregas
It is late in the afternoon and a 50-year old man (called Matanda) is waiting for the bus which is scheduled to arrive at that bus stop in 30 minutes. The man turned out to be a priest who had decided to tap out of the priestly life. Later, he was joined by a 7-year old little boy (called Bata) came along at this same bus stop and struck a conversation with him. As the boy shares about his ambitions in life, the man shares his pressing reasons why he wanted out of his sacerdotal duties.
Of the plays I had seen in the VLF so far, this one is the one with the smallest scope and focus. My own interpretation was that this whole piece was an introspective meditation of the priest within in himself, looking back at the reasons why he became a priest in the first place and justifying his drastic decision to leave his vocation.
Jojo Cayabyab (as Matanda) and young Omar Uddin (as Bata) both delivered their lines with depth and sincerity of feeling. Always impressive to see a child actor deliver such a big important role. Sari Saysay wrote the script with such simplicity that it needed a director's creative vision to execute it vibrantly for the stage. Topper Fabregas certainly rose to that challenge in his directorial debut at the VLF.
3. DEAR AND UNHAPPY
Written by: Carlo Vergara
Directed by: Ricky Villabona
A scared young woman with a dirty face and unkempt hair wearing a disheveled kimona ran across the stage. Suddenly she addressed the audience in straight English with a snooty British accent. She longed for her recently lost love Joe, and bemoaned her sorry lot in life following a stillbirth, a revolutionary war and a firing squad.
While wandering lost in the deep dark woods, she met a mysterious magical man who calls himself the "Alpha Babaylan" who seemed to be able to unlock wonderful powers of her own. However, it turned out in exchange for the development of her magical talents, she had to fulfill a mission which ran against the very things her husband lost his life for.
Being written by Carlo Vergara, I was expecting a wacky comedy, like "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady" and "Mula sa Kulimliman" from VLF's past. This time though, the title and the poster of this new play sounded and looked serious. When Cris Villonco first ran across the stage looking like a terrified madwoman in the first scene, I braced myself for a different Carlo Vergara product.
Then she opened her mouth to speak her lines in that cute British accent, and I realized this was still a comedy after all! The appearance of a flamboyant Bernardo Bernardo as the Alpha Babaylan shifted the comedy gears further up a notch. That this play was almost entirely written in Queen's English was remarkable. The wry British wit was impressively written by Vergara and fluidly delivered by both actors.
The twist in the plot in the latter half of the play when it revealed the underlying message of play came from right out of nowhere. I won't reveal it here, but let's just say that it was ironic to hear it right after Fil-Am Friendship Day. For me, it sort of threw off the momentum of the first twenty minutes of the play.
The remaining performances of SET C are on July 9 and 14 at 3 pm, and on July 8 and 13 at 8 pm. Tickets to the Virgin Labfest are at P400 each.