Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review of VIRGIN LABFEST XIII - SET A: Career Catch-22s

July 6, 2017

The three one-act plays in Set A of this year's Virgin Labfest XIII all involve characters questioning sticky dilemmas about their current careers in which the final decisions seem to be very difficult, if not totally impossible, to arrive at.

Written by: Rick Patriarca
Directed by: Ian Segarra

Art and Ed had been working as copywriters in the same firm for several years already. One day, Peter, a much younger colleagues, announced that he had decided to quit his job and take up his Masters in Sociology, with no clear career path in mind. After 30 years in his job, Art is very much contented that he is in this easy yet high-paying job. However, Ed is having nightmares about not knowing what he had actually been doing in his whole life.

It was impressive how young writer Rick Patriarca expanded this seemingly mundane topic into an evocative and provocative drama. I guess his background as a content writer in a BPO company came in handy here. The pithy discussions between Art and Ed can get you thinking about your own satisfaction about your current life and career. Is your career something you derive genuine happiness from? Or is it just a repetitive monotony you are trapped to keep doing just for the money?

Gie Onida played the practical elder colleague Art, the older man who loves his job as it provides very well for his family. He was pretty convincing in delivering his arguments, and was a delight to watch when he gets all hot and passionate about the topic on hand. As Ed, the father whose son just turned one year old, Aldo Vencilao effectively enunciated onstage the frustrations of many young people caught in dead-end jobs. 

Written by: Eljay Castro Deldoc
Directed by: Roobak Valle and Tuxqs Rutaquio

Ambet and Nato run, a website that serves up historical fiction. However, just when their site and its articles are gaining in popularity, Ambet gets hit by a sense of guilt that they are spreading false information that majority are actually accepting as the truth. Nato reminds him that they are up to their necks in contracts with various showbiz, religious and political groups, and they cannot quit just that easily.

Eljay Castro Deldoc can really whip up the most outrageous situational comedy. We saw this talent in his previous VLF hit "Ang Goldfish ni Prof. Dimaandal," and we definitely see it in this one now. The potshots at showbiz personalities or religious charlatans, however sharp and irreverent, brought the house down in laughter. After all the fun though, an important timely message against historical revisionism was still delivered at the end. The first half of the title gives a clue about the serious topic this play sought to address.

Paul Jake Paule brought over some of his Macbeth brooding as the guilt-stricken Ambet. I guess this character's name is a reference to noted historian Ambeth Ocampo, who wrote popular history books like "Rizal Without the Overcoat" which was referred to in the second half of the title. Fitz Bitana was a natural comic whiz as the more carefree techie Nato, who did not mind about the potential dangerous effects of their creative writing, as long as they become viral on social media and bring in the big money contracts. 

The absurd comedy factor that made the show a riot was care of Chunchi Cabasaan and Anthony Falcon who played up the caricatures of various popular celebrities. These two guys were loud, colorful, scene-stealing and no-holds-barred in their comic delivery to the rollicking delight of everyone in the audience.

Written by: Oggie Arcenas
Directed by: Michael Williams

Allen is an actor who was desperate to resuscitate his flagging career. He visits an art exhibit of his old friend and co-actor Rainier, who has now shifted careers to painting. Allen proposes to Rainier if he would agree to reviving their once very popular, albeit homosexual, telenovela love team "All-Rain" for one movie. However, Rainier cannot seem decide easily because of various issues that face him now and bothered him before.

The whole play seemed to just go around in circles about the same basic problem, all in the aim of gaining enough momentum for one smashing climax. Judging from the anticipatory sighs and stifled gasps of the girls in the audience, it seems they knew exactly what was about to happen. I guess the poster was not too subtle. When that big moment actually happened, the girls all screamed with utmost thrill. 

As Allen, Andrei Vegas gamely played up his rough bad-boy appeal in stark contrast with the more refined gentlemanly appeal of Alex Yasuda as Rainier. Electric chemistry was actually there between these two actors. With the words of playwright Oggie Arcenas to work on, director Michael Williams patiently built up the "kilig" tension between the two characters and, based on the excited girls in the audience, it definitely worked. I just wished the painting they used had more significant impact than the one they chose to use.


The remaining performances of SET A are on July 7, 12 and 16 at 3 pm, and on July 11 and 15 at 8 pm. Tickets to the Virgin Labfest are at P400 each.

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