June 28, 2018
I have been watching the Virgin Labfest at the CCP for five years in a row now. The fresh one-act plays chosen for this festival had been exceptional theater pieces, and this year is already its 14th year, with the provocative theme of "Silip". This year, 150 scripts had been submitted and the top 12 were chosen to be staged.
Last year I had been able to catch all 12 plays, the first time I has been able to do so. This year, with all the road works causing more traffic in the Metro, I am not sure yet if I can do it again. The venue this year was still the CCP Little Theater Aurelio Tolentino, same as last year. VLF XIV opened yesterday with Set A. Today, I attended the premiere staging of the Set B plays, which were the following:
Written by: J. Dennis Teodisio
Directed by: Charles Yee
Ex pro photographer Anding is now old and blinded by his diabetes. One day, he came back to the reunite with his best friend Merto in his former nursing home. Anding thought Merto would never forgive his sudden leaving the home a few years back. As they sat on the swing set in the rose garden, they talk about the old times, and their future together.
Playwright J. Dennis Teodisio wrote this play after visiting a nursing home for aging gay people. It was not glaringly obvious from the script, but upon listening to the conversations between Anding and Merto, you do get that subtext about them.
This was a very very slow and quiet play about two old men talking about memories and other mundane things. It was not exactly the best play to watch at siesta time in the afternoon, if you get my drift. Not even the sincere performances of veteran actors Crispin Pineda (as Anding) and Bembol Roco (as Merto) could give it more life. As this was only the first show, tweaks can still be made to liven this up some more.
2. ANG MGA PROPESYUNAL
Written by: Sari Saysay
Directed by: Carlos Siguion Reyna
Three scavenger kids were taking their trolley of trash to the junk shop. They were playing a game of pretend based on the junk they picked up. Pia used a discarded video camera and a damaged keyboard to be a reporter. Roel found an old scrub suit and stethoscope to be a doctor. Lauro used a stick as a gun to be a policeman, like he always did.
Mr. Sari Saysay was able to incorporate so many witty bits of social commentary from several current topics. Through Pia (probably inspired by a controversial Rappler reporter), Saysay discussed freedom of the press, persecution of journalists and the PCOO. Through Lauro, he tackled the issue of EJK and police brutality. Roel's doctor character served as the balancing factor between the two. There were times though when the words used by the kids did not seem consistent with their life condition.
This play joins "Ang Bata sa Drum" and "Ang Mga Puyong" as outstanding VLF plays with kids as main characters. But here, Krystle Campos (Pia), Arthur Castro (Roel) and Jian Markus Tayco (Lauro) are real kids, all not older than 15 years of age, which was impressive. Director Carlos Siguion-Reyna managed to strike the balance between innocent childhood fantasy and harsh violent reality as the script blurred the line between the two.
3. EDGAR ALLAN HEMINGWAY
Written by: Carlo Vergara
Directed by: George de Jesus III
Computer programmer Levi Llorca topped the New York Times Bestseller's List with his debut novel "Revisita," which critics hailed as a perfect mix of the diverse writing styles of Jane Austen and Alex Garland. His loyal partner Barns Noble doubles as his efficient manager to handle his busy schedules and finances. Back in Manila for a series of media activities, Levi made time to meet with old college friend George, now a copywriter and a frustrated novelist.
The name of writer Carlo Vergara is a brand of theatrical excellence. His previous VLF plays, "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady," "The Missing Peace" and "Mula sa Kulimliman" all had innovative plots with very entertaining elements. This play was no different, the writing is so logical, witty and smart. This show needs a spoiler warning. One should see it without knowing what it is all about for it to work best.
Ricci Chan was a riot as usual as Barns. In past plays I've seen Ricci in, including VLF plays, he is consistently the life of the show, really so funny. Guelan Luarca, I know as an excellent playwright and translator, but this is the first time I am seeing him as an actor on stage. His portrayal of George is quite delightful in his frustration and desperation. Rafa Siguion Reyna mainly played the straight man of the play, and he held his own ground firmly.