The Rajah Sulayman Theater in Fort Santiago was especially designed by founder Ms. Cecilia Guidote-Alvarez herself to be the venue for the plays of PETA since its birth in 1967 to the 1990s. This year, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, PETA returns to this outdoor theater to restage one of its most acclaimed plays -- Alan Glinoga's Filipino translation of Bertolt Brecht’s "Ang Buhay ni Galileo," directed by Rody Vera.
Galileo Galilei was a noted astronomer in the 17th century who was able to develop a powerful telescope to discover truths about the universe around our planet, which unfortunately ran against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
As you can expect, this was as much about Galileo's discoveries and travails as it was about the Church's antagonistic resistance to scientific progress, which it felt displaced God (and his clergy) from its exalted central position. It talked about how the Church wanted the people to remain ignorant in order to keep them under their thumb. It showed that despite unlocking the mysteries of the skies, but the mysteries of human society remain unsolved. The science which was supposed to liberate man, the Church adamantly suppressed.
Joel Lamangan returns to the lead role he originated during the first staging of this play in 1981. Lamangan looked much older than the age of 46 Galileo was supposed to be. He captured the eccentricity and stubbornness of the man, with some moments of odd belly laughter. The occasional lapses in line delivery was excusable since he was onstage practically the whole running time of the play. You can already hear the strain on his voice which is bad since this is only the first night.
Bodjie Pascua was also a member of the cast then as again now. Here, he plays a number of varied characters. Despite having different costumes, it could still be confusing to tell them apart with the different opinions of each character he played, be it a skeptical Aristotlean philosopher, a subversive balladeer or his Holiness the Pope himself.
The three close apprentices of Galileo were played by Gie Onida (as the illiterate Federzoni), John Moran (as the monk Fulganceo) and Ian Segarra (as his principled young ward Andrea). Andrea as a young boy was played by child wonder Noel Comia, Jr., who was the plays narrator as well. Each of these actors had their big moments in the play in which they shone.
Veteran PETA actors filled in the other roles. Gold Villar- Lim played his loyal daughter Virginia, as Randy Villarama played her aristocratic Beau Ludovico. Upeng Fernandez played Galileo's conservative housekeeper. Raffy Tejada played a very old Cardinal who thought Galileo's discoveries were the devil's work. Jack Yabut, Manny Pambid, Roi Calilong, Norbs Portales, Neomi Gonzales and more play smaller roles.
The Cast at the Curtain Call
The costumes of Brenda Fajardo consisted of pieces of cloth color-coded to define the social standing of the character who wore it. The spare set was also designed by Ms Fajardo under the philosophy of Aesthetic of Poverty, but this was enhanced by the lighting design of Roman Cruz. The music by Dodgie Fernandez was played by a three-man band and a live choir. I could not see where these singers were, so their disembodied voices sounded ethereal.
Be ready for a long but picturesque walk from the front gate of Fort Santiago to Rajah Sulayman Theater proper. Last night, the very long first act started at 6:30pm and ran up to almost 8:30pm, which had many of the high school kids in the audience rather restless.
After a 10-minute break, the start of Act 2 was interrupted by strong rain showers which led to the show being stopped for about 30 minutes. After all the monobloc chairs were wiped dry, Act 2 began and would run at a more compact 40 minutes. Aside from rain, a spectacular fireworks show in the sky above Rizal Park (?) went on for a few minutes during Act 2. The actors had to play on and project their voices louder to be heard above the noise. During the play, there was a bat that flitted in and out of view. Now that's a live outdoor play experience for you!
"Ang Buhay ni Galileo" will only have three shows from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 2017 at the Rajah Sulayman Theater in Fort Santiago. Show starts promptly at 6:30pm. Tickets sold at P600 only.