Friday, July 7, 2017

Review of VIRGIN LABFEST XIII - SET D: Alarm and Aggravation

July 6, 2017

The three one-act plays in Set D of this year's Virgin Labfest XIII all involve characters that cause undue alarm, therefore aggravating the current situation they are in. As a result the plays of this set were not exactly comfortable to watch.

Written by: Adrian Ho
Directed by: Jenny Jamora

The Sincerity Bikers Club is a small group of neighbors who went on biking trips together. There were only five members: a separated teacher Cynthia and her son Tom, her spinster co-teacher Marife, a bachelor narcissist Rocky, and an old man Dudz. 

One day, a new neighbor Louella, a bank teller who described herself as newly single, joins them on a ride. Marife, wary about the security of their group, did a background check on their new member, and discovered some disturbing information about Louella's husband. When Marife confronts Louella about these sordid details of her past life, the neat dynamics of their group was thrown into disarray.

Frances Makil-Ignacio played the wet blanket Marife, so aggressively frank with all her alarming projections. On the other hand, Japo Parcero played Louella in all simplicity and humility. Soliman Cruz played Dudz as the group's (and the play's) voice of wisdom and reason. Chrome Cosio (as Rocky) was there mainly for comic relief. Ring Antonio, as the president Cynthia, could have been more decisive or assertive. Jerome Dawis, who played Tom here, was also the same young actor who played co-lead in Set B's "Boses ng Masa."

The whole hullabaloo of this play was all just based on some unfounded selfish speculations of one unreasonably suspicious woman. Despite its rustic outdoor setting, the atmosphere was stifling and discomfiting. It was the effective ensemble performance of the actors as directed by Jenny Jamora that made all this uncomfortable paranoia worth watching. 

Written by: Eliza Victoria
Directed by: George de Jesus III

Isabel went to an old house to see the witch who lived there. This was the same witch visited by Isa's philandering father before, which resulted her mother to get seriously ill and suffer until she died. Because of the extreme jealousy, Isabel asked the witch to do some black magic so Miguel would love her, not her best friend Kat. But for that happiness, Isabel had to pay a big price.

Angeli Bayani, what an entrance and first line! As the Witch, she projected a spooky vibe that can give you goosebumps. Delphine Buencamino had all the angst of betrayed daughter, frustrated caregiver and unrequited lover going on in her Isabel. Mara Paulina Marasigan needed to be bold to play Kat, in costume and in action. Kevin Posadas was the smiling, clueless pretty boy the whole time as Miguel. 

Horror is not an easy genre to pull off on a stage and director George de Jesus surely had his hands full with this richly convoluted one-act play by Eliza Victoria. There were so many things going on in the plot, I am not really sure if I got the whole story correctly or not. I do not know which scenes were figments of Isa's fantasy or which were actually happening to her. Impressive how they were able to effectively execute these creepy surreal scenes in that limited space of that small stage.

Written by: Dingdong Novenario
Directed by: Carlos Siguion-Reyna

Tatay and Nanay are both very excited about the return home of their daughter Gracia from her studies in the US. They are doubly excited about the American guest whom she will be  bringing over to visit. When Gracia came and introduced her boyfriend Richard to her parents, they were very shocked to see that the guy was an African-American. 

After seeing him speak perfect English is Rep plays, Audie Gemora would be the last actor you'd expect to play the heavily-accented, brutal bully Tatay. I had never seen veteran actress Madeleine Nicolas on stage before, and she was a delightful riot on her own as her wine-inebriated Nanay delivered the play's funniest one-liners. 

Lhorvie Ann Nuevo had the most difficult role having to strike a balance between her father and her boyfriend. I don't think I had ever heard her speak straight English in a play before. New Care Diva Thou Reyes played it serious this time as the harassed guest Richard. He may look calm and cool, but you can feel him seethe under his collar.

This is a very familiar story tackled in film like "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967) and just this year, "Get Out (2016)  -- what happens when a daughter brings home a black boyfriend, without any telling her parents beforehand. Bringing this story into the Filipino setting opens the floodgates to all sorts of racial references, jokes and insults as crisp as only Filipinos could deliver them. Writer Novenario is relentless with these zingers! It may be funny for us, yes, but it can also make you cringe and squirm.


The remaining performances of SET D are on July 11 and 15 at 3 pm, and on July 9 and 14 at 8 pm. Tickets to the Virgin Labfest are at P400 each.

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