Sunday, December 4, 2022

Rep: Review of CAROUSEL: Baleful and Bizarre

December 5, 2022



Billy Bigelow (Gian Magdangal) worked as the barker of a carousel in a small town in Maine. One night, two young millworkers, Julie Jordan (Karylle Tatlonghari) and Carrie Pipperidge (Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante), took a ride on the carousel. Billy and Julie developed an obvious attraction for each other, much to the annoyance of the carousel owner, the widow Mrs. Mullin (Roxy Aldiosa). She banned Julie from her carousel and fired Billy for taking Julie's side.

After Billy and Julie were married, things were not going too smoothly with the couple. Word even got out around town that Billy beat Julie. He also got involved with a notorious man named Jigger Craigin (Noel Rayos) who was trying to convince the jobless Billy to join him to rob Julie's former employer Mr. Bascombe (Red Nuestro) during the town's yearly clambake picnic. When Billy learned that Julie was pregnant, he reluctantly accepted Jigger's plan.

"Carousel" (1945) was the second musical created by legendary theater-meisters Richard Rodgers (for music) and Oscar Hammerstein (for book and lyrics) after their smash debut "Oklahoma" (1943). This was based on a much older Hungarian play entitled "Liliom" by Ferenc Molnar with the same dark plot and flawed characters. However, its name lives on mainly because of its two immortal songs -- "If I Loved You" and "You'll Never Walk Alone). 

For people who only know Rodgers and Hammerstein from their big hits like "Sound and Music" and "The King and I," they may be in for a surprise with "Carousel." The story about toxic men and submissive women was not bright and cheery at all. There were casual depictions of lecherous men making sexualized moves on women in several scenes, all very uncomfortable to watch, which may be the intention of director Toff De Venecia. Aside from this, the afterlife scenes with the Starkeepers may also come off as too bizarre.  

Dance was an integral part of this musical. As choreographed by Stephen Vinas, they were contemporary balletic interpretations of the plight of Billy and Julie's daughter Louise (ballerina Gia Gequinto in her Rep debut) with anachronistic props like cellphones and a ring light. These dance interludes have a very serious mood to them, danced to instrumental music only, not to songs with lyrics. If one is not fond of this type of dance, he might find these parts tedious and too long. I still do not know what those two silver blocks really represented. 

However, the acting and singing prowess of its lead actors cannot be denied. Karylle's soprano was more brilliant and stronger than I've heard her before. Too bad she only had "If I Loved You" as her main solo showcase. Gian Magdangal really captured Billy Bigelow's handsome but brutish character. Aside from "If I Loved You," his powerful renditions of "Soliloquy" and "The Highest Judge of All" were riveting in emotional substance. 

Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante always had that delightful, scene-stealing stage presence, and her turn as Carrie was no different, with her cheery renditions of "You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan" and "(When I Marry) Mr. Snow." Senior actress Mia Bolanos really stood out when her Nettie Fowler led the ensemble in the ebullient "June is Busting Out All Over" and then sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" heart-rending exquisiteness -- not just once, but twice. 

Lorenz Martinez played Carrie's husband Enoch Snow in a comic style. Among the ensemble, Cara Barredo and Steven Hotchkiss play various roles, Julio Laforteza made his mark with his dance moves, as Roby Malubay also did with his deep baritone. Playing live dueling piano accompaniment were musical director Ejay Yatco and Joed Balsamo. Notable among the  technicals were the lighting by Barbie Tan-Tiongco and the costumes by Jodinand Aguillon. Hoping the microphones could still be improved so that the lyrics won't sound garbled.


***

Watch Repertory Philippines’ Carousel at the #CCPBlackBoxTheater from November 26 to December 18, 2022. Tickets are available through TicketWorld and the CCP Box Office: 8832-3704 | 8832-1125.


Saturday, November 19, 2022

DUP: Review of THE RECONCILIATION DINNER: Unhinged by "Unity"

November 19, 2022



Dina (Stella Canete-Mendoza) and Susan (Frances Makil-Ignacio) had been the best of friends since their college days. When they had their respective families, they remained close. Dina married Bert Mendoza (Randy Medel Villarama) and had a daughter Mica (Hariette Mozelle), who is now married to Ely (Reb Atadero). Susan married Fred Valderama (Jojo Cayabyab), and had one gay son Norby (Phi Palmos). 

One night, in November 2016, Dina invited Susan and Fred for dinner at their home. However, Susan was distracted because of the news that the body of a past president had been buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani by the current president, and Dina can't see why it bothered her so much. It turned that both women supported different presidential candidates in the last elections which caused their friendship to chill.

From "Collection" (2013, REVIEW) to "Ang Nawalang Kapatid" (2014, REVIEW), "Angry Christ" (2017, REVIEW) to "The Kundiman Party" (2018, REVIEW), plays written by Floy Quintos and directed by Dexter M. Santos had been the most exhilarating, most memorable plays produced by Dulaang UP that I had ever seen. Dealing with larger-than-life personalities and staged with elaborate sets, they were bombastic shows that hit you hard with their thought-provoking stories.

In contrast with these previous plays, Quinto's 20th play "The Reconciliation Dinner" is about regular middle-class people going through an experience we are all probably going through ourselves in our own circle of friends. We've had plenty of elections before and we do not always choose the same candidate, but never had these differences in vote been so dramatic, and even traumatic, than the elections of 2016 and then again in 2022.

Every member of the ensemble cast got their moments to shine. Stella Canete-Mendoza and Frances Makil-Ignacio clicked as old BFFs, so we all feel the strain in their friendship and the stress it caused both women. Jojo Cayabyab's Fred may seem mild-mannered, but he can speak his mind when it mattered. Harriet Mozelle's Mica was a product of her parents' influence, while Reb Atadero's Ely kept a critical secret from his in-laws and his wife.

While the friendship of Dina and Susan was the heart of the story, they were not really the characters who made the biggest impact. Passionately pink was Phi Palmos's Norby, so defiantly progressive that he criticized his own parents as "old-school Pinklawans." On the other extreme, Randy Medel Villarama's Bert, the rabid loyalist, a joker who can't take a joke, a character you hate so much, you will cheer when he gets his comeuppance.

With skill and eloquence that he is known for as a playwright, Quintos had practically summarized the uneasy experience of Philippine society in the past 6 years into this 1-1/2 hour-long one-act play. This divisive drama had been played out on social media, made even worse by revisionist memes by troll farms. We have heard all of the triggering issues Quintos referenced, and they will raise the same emotions in us all over again.

*****

"The Reconciliation Dinner" runs from November 18 - 20 (10:30am, 3:00pm and 7:30pm) at the UP Theater Main Hall Stage, UP Diliman, QC. Buy tickets from Ticket2Me via this link


Saturday, September 17, 2022

TP: Review of ANAK DATU: Fresh, Frank and Fearless

September 17, 2022



It all started with a short story written for young readers by National Artist for Visual Arts Abdulmari Imao in 1968. It was only about a kidnapping incident that happened in pre-colonial Mindanao. However, the fertile imagination of playwright Rody Vera was able to spin from it a complex multi-layered script that also involved the Imao family during the 1970s, as well as key events in the history of the Muslim conflict in the Philippines.

We meet Abdulmari Imao (Marco Viana) as a painter busy at work at his easel in their home, with his muse, his supportive Christian wife Grace de Leon (Antonette Go), by his side. They had a spirited young son Toym (Carlos Dala) who was obsessed with watching Japanese robot shows on TV, particularly "Voltes V" and was constantly engaged in imaginative game play inspired by his anime action heroes. 

We meet Jibin Arula, both as an eager Tausug teenager (Mark Lorenz) excited to be training with his friends, and as an old man (Nanding Josef) telling his story about how their adventure in Corregidor went wrong. The trainees found out that they were going to be used for a sinister purpose different from what they were told so they sent in their objection. Arula was the sole survivor of this massacre, an event that sparked the Muslim insurgency in the country. 

We meet Datu Karim (Hassanain Magarang) and his wife Putli Loling (Lhorvie Nuevo) who were ambushed at sea by pirates, led by the notorious plunderer Jikiran (Earle Figuracion). Putli Loling's son Karim (also played by Carlos Dala) grew up recognizing Jikiran as his father. Jikiran would later confess his crimes to young Karim while showing him all his cache of treasures he had collected over the years, and apologize for them. 

There was a narrator in the person of Tex Ordonez-de Leon. We first meet her as the storyteller who would sing the ballads about Putli Loling. Later on, we will see her as well as an English-speaking Rita Gaddi-Baltazar type pro-Martial Law TV spokesperson, extolling the Folk Arts Theater, the Miss Universe Pageant 1974 and the Thrilla in Manila 1975. Unfortunately, the live playing of percussion rendered some of her words unclear. 

In Act 1, it might take a bit of time for the audiences to settle into the groove of these multiple threads before they could be woven into the complicated patterns of its ambitious fabric of epic design. The changing scenes, with various characters being played by the versatile ensemble, can be confusing for those who have not read background information about this play. The pace of the storytelling was still slow, so it may be difficult to focus.

However, by Act 2, everything settled into place and the engagement factor picked up considerably. Each scene will hold your attention, be it about how Nur Misuari (Ahrjay Babon) established the Moro National Liberation Front, how the youth reacted when Voltes V was pulled out of the TV or how Karim reunited with his father. The grand finale that put all the segments of the story together into one spectacular whole was genius.

Setting up the whole story was a challenge as they had to juggle with the different set pieces (designed by Toym Leon Imao) and colorful costumes (designed by Carlo Pagunaling) for each of these three stories being told. The lighting design by Katsch Catoy, projection design by GA Fallarme completed the visual illusion. The hypnotic original music by Josefino Chino Toledo was played live with Muslim instruments, mixed into the sound design by TJ Ramos. 

The pangalay (the traditional dance of the Tausugs, done with elaborate poses of the body and the wave-like gestures of the arm and hands), as well as the martial arts fighting scenes were choreographed by Hassanain Magarang, and the PWU Indayog Gong Ensemble was very elegant to watch. Carlos Dala in particular was very graceful in both his dancing and fighting movements, quite an auspicious stage debut for this young indie film actor. 

TP Artistic Director Nanding Josef, TP Associate Artistic Director Marco Viana and TP Actor's Company senior members Antonette Go and Lhorvie Nuevo delivered solid performances as would be expected of them. For their debut performance with Tanghalang Pilipino for live theater, new TP Actors Company scholars Arjhay Babon and Earle Figuracion made strong impressions in their prominently featured roles of Misuari and Jikiran respectively.

Director Chris Millado's ideas for the staging of scenes were fresh and innovative. The Imao living room had the easel, the television set and the coffee table were all on their own movable little stages. The scene where Jikiran's body was being wrapped with a white cloth for his funeral was haunting yet beautiful. The AFP soldiers taunted the MNLF rebels with lines delivered in a strange cadence and inflection. 

The show still managed to end on a positive note, with hope of real long-lasting peace among Filipino Muslims and their Christians, conveyed in a closing anthem that amusingly sampled the "Voltes V" theme into it. However, there was a series of slides flashed on the screen at the end that had some ironic information in text form for the audience to read. It is just too bad it was difficult to finish reading some of these slides which had very long paragraphs.

Hearing the familiar introductory notes of the Martial Law anthem "Bagong Lipunan" which opened the play was a grim portent of the dark political themes the play would tackle. Rody Vera certainly minced no words when he described what the ruling government did during those years to cause Muslims to fight back. Vera's social and historical commentary about the events depicted in his play was frank and fearless.


*********


“Anak Datu” is also the maiden production of the newly built Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez at the Cultural Center of the Philippines from September 16 to October 9, 2022. For tickets, go to bit.ly/AnakDatuTickets and stay tuned to the Tanghalang Pilipino Facebook Page for promos and discounts.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Review of MULA SA BUWAN: A Congenial and Charming Cyrano

 August 27, 2022



"Cyrano de Bergerac" is a classic French play by Edmond Rostand written in 1987. Since then, the play had been translated into and performed in English and other languages, and adapted into stage musical versions as well. There have been a number of film versions, the latest of which was "Cyrano" (Joe Wright, 2021) starring Peter Dinklage; as well as adaptations where the story was transposed to modern times and/or gender-swapped, the latest of which was "The Half of It" (Alice Wu, 2020).

"Mula sa Buwan" is the Filipino musical adaptation of Cyrano's story by Pat Valera (book and lyrics) and William Elvin Manzano (original music and lyrics) based on Soc Rodrigo's Filipino translation of Rostand's original verses. It has itself undergone a number of reworkings since its first staging in 2010 at the University of Asia and the Pacific by the Dulaang Rock Opera Company. These tweaks in the book were done in order to make the material more relevant to the prevailing social climate.

It had gained more popularity when it was staged at the Ateneo de Manila University twice by Black Box Productions. In 2016, it was staged at the Irwin Lee Theater, with Nicco Manalo and Boo Gabunada alternating as Cyrano, KL Dizon as Roxane and Fred Lo and Edward Benosa alternating as Christian. In 2018, it was restaged at the Hyundai Hall of Arete, with Manalo and Gabunada again alternating as Cyrano, Gab Pangilinan and Cris Go alternating as Roxane and Edward Benosa and Myke Salomon alternating as Christian.

For this current production, the Barefoot Theatre Collaborative brings the beloved work to a much bigger venue -- the new and beautiful Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Circuit Makati, which has a seating capacity almost twice that of Hyundai Hall. The dashing Markki Stroem joins the cast as Christian. The ever-incandescent Gab Pangilinan reprises her role as Roxane. From playing Christian in 2018, musical director Myke Salomon now dons the iconic prosthetic nose to play the lead role of Cyrano. 

The main supporting characters include the fabulous Rosanna (Phi Palmos), the transgender cabaret owner who supported projects to promote equal representation and freedom of expression; the haughty Maximo (MC de la Cruz), the raffish rich young man who dared to challenge Cyrano; the loyal Tato (Jon Abella), Cyrano's best friend, and the sweet Gabriel (Jillian Ita-as), Roxane's best friend and Tato's love interest. 

The cadets under Cyrano were played by Abe Autea, Jep Go, Rapah Manalo, Stephen Viñas and the diminutive Ericka Peralejo. The ensemble of townspeople includes: Miah Canton, Francis Gatmaytan, Mitzie Lao, Deborah Lemuel, Mark Anthony Grantos, Eizel Marcelo, Kinnara Mayari , Ace Polias, Liway Perez, Lance Reblando, Mikaela Regis, Chesko Rodriguez, Keith Sumbi, Shaira Opsimar and Khalil Tambio

Set designer Ohm David transformed the spacious stage of the Samsung Performing Arts Theater into a lively city street corner with a makeshift stage for the first song number "Ang Tanghalang Ito," then he would bring us into Rosanna's cabaret, where she sang her spirited "Manifesto." David's main backdrop was a wall of crumpled white fabric, which conveyed different moods depending on the colors of Meliton Roxas's lights. A full moon and a sky full of twinkling stars would occasionally appear up there to create a most beautiful effect. 

The costumes designed by Bonsai Cielo transported the audience back to 1940s Manila before and after World War II took its toll. As most of the boys were in their khakis, the girls' were in rainbow-colored dresses which flowed as the they spun around in JM Cabling's vibrant choreography. Roxane's dresses were made for standing out in the crowd, with their bright primary colors that reflect her moods. For Rosanna's featured number, Palmos rocked an ensemble of polka-dot sleeveless blouse, purple pants and red shoes.  

The first act on its own took about two hours already, with 10 song numbers that introduced the three main characters and built up the love triangle they will be engaged. the mood of the this act was generally upbeat (the boisterous "Ang Ilong"), with a healthy dose of sweet nothings for romantics to sigh on (the longing of "Ikaw"). The final song of the act, "Malaya," was sung when the war reached the city, as the Philippine flag waved with the red on top, dramatically switched abruptly with the Japanese Rising Sun flag at blackout.  

In stark contrast with the high energy of Act 1, the second act had a more somber atmosphere as themes of war and mortality took over. This hour-long act only had four songs, all with titles that dealt with the misery of war, the loss of loved ones, and hope for a better tomorrow. These are "Awit ng Mga Naiwan," Christian's soaring anthem "Matatapos Din," "Tahan Na," and "Ang Sabi Nila," Roxane's song about her difficulty of moving on from a lost love, the emotional highlight for Gab Pangilinan's sparkling soprano. 

If you are not familiar with Cyrano's story, it may not easy to get into the musical at first with the flowery Tagalog used. However once the main love triangle gets going, you will be hooked. The romantic chemistry of real-life couple Salomon and Pangilinan is undeniable even though their characters were not exactly lovers, as Stroem gamely played third wheel. Abella and Ita-as were delightful as second couple Tato and Gabriel, also eliciting thrilled shrieks from the audience. MC dela Cruz registered strongly as the bad boy Maximo.

I was not able to see any of the Ateneo stagings of this musical, so I would not be able to compare this staging from the previous or if there were any major changes made. Myke Salomon had a light, child-like, and congenial portrayal of Cyrano that kept the story, especially the grim second act, from becoming totally maudlin and depressing. As "Ang Huling El Bimbo" set Salomon apart as musical director par excellence, "Mula sa Buwan finally confirmed Salomon to be a true leading man. This multi-talented man has truly arrived. 


*****


MULA SA BUWAN, a musical about love & defiance by Pat Valera & William Elvin Manzano runs from AUG. 26—SEPT. 11, 2022 for a LIMITED ENGAGEMENT at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater, Circuit Makati. Tickets are now on sale at ticketworld.com.ph or mulasabuwan.com/tickets

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Review of DOC ANNA ... LET'S KILL THIS LAB!: Political Pressure, Scientific Snags

 August 1, 2022



Dr. Anna de los Santos (Jana Isabel La Victoria) was a chemist who heads the nanotechnology laboratory in the Colegio de Salvados. She gained prominence by developing a evaporation suppressant chemical (which townspeople erroneously called a "fertilizer") which enabled the farmers of her town to save their crops from the yearly drought.  

However, Dr. Anna owed her present position to two politicians. One is the current Mayor Tito Reyes (Jorge Matba), who was the one who released the funds for her to be able to develop her "miracle" chemical. The other is Vicky Ramos (Lauren Antonio), who owns the factory which mass produces her invention, now currently running for mayor against Tito.

At the height of election fever, Salvados was stricken by an epidemic of cancer. Dr. Anna was being pressured by Tito and Vicky to find the cause and the solution for this alarming disease. Dr. Anna thinks it could be arsenic in the water. Anna and her lab assistant Boy-C (Miggy Lagazon) scramble to find the source of this toxic contaminant. 

Dr. Anna also faced pressing issues at home. Her very religious mother Amparing (Kiana Aaliyah Cervantes) wanted her to accept the position of "hermana mayor" for the upcoming fiesta of Virgen de Salvados. Meanwhile, her niece and adopted daughter Girlie (Anika Licudan) was becoming increasingly depressed from traumatic experiences. 

Playwright Layeta Bucoy was able to write this and two more full-length plays ("Dance of the Foolies" and "Orgullo Compound") stemming from research on arsenic and nanosilica from rice hull ash of the University of the Philippines Los Baños nanoscience and technology facility and analytical and instrumentation science laboratory. This dissertation of hers for a doctorate degree in Literature in De La Salle University was published last year. 

This complex, multi-layered play explored the political ramifications of a scientific discovery that which benefited a town greatly at first, but later may be implicated in its destruction. With her acclaimed writing skills, Bucoy seamlessly merged very disparate elements of nano-chemistry, politics, religion, rape and mental health in a emotionally-heavy, intellectually-disturbing script, yet still managed to be very engaging for its audience. 

The young cast of actors was led by Jana Isabel La Victoria in the central role of Doc Anna. La Victoria had to keep up the cold pragmatic veneer of a scientist for most of the play's run time, but the frustration that was boiling up inside of her eventually had to explode in a couple of remarkable breakdown scenes. Her navigation of the jargonish scientific terminology which had to roll off her tongue naturally was particularly convincing. 

Standing out among the supporting actors was Kiana Aaliyah Cervantes, whose portrayal of Doc Anna's old fanatical mother became more impressive when you see how she actually looked like without her aging makeup. The Greek chorus of four dancers / townspeople (Alyssa Torres, Sari Labrador, plus Matba and Lagazon doing double duties) was quite entertaining as they trade gossip and speculations and chants. 

This production was directed for an online presentation by Tuxqs Rutaquio, who also designed the sets. Jaydee Jasa multi-tasked as cinematographer, editor and camera operator. There were a couple of scenes depicting corpses in coffins which would be difficult to imagine being staged live on stage. The hair and makeup by Carlos Siongco effectively transformed young actors like Cervantes and Matba into convincing senior characters. 

Maiba 18 Productions is a production house founded and led by the students of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Theater Arts Batch 118, aiming to empower marginalized communities by staging productions from the diverse perspectives of the youth. This stage production of "Doc Anna ... Let's Kill this Lab," their final academic requirement for their Theater Production 2 class, streams on Ticket2me.net from July 29 to August 12, 2022.


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Ticket2Me: Mini-Reviews of VIRGIN LABFEST 17 Sets A-D: Breathing Better

July 5, 2022



The Virgin Labfest is an annual festival of "untried, untested, and unstaged" one-act plays by Filipino playwrights that started since 2005. It had always been held at the CCP Tanghalang Huseng Batute, until it was forced to shift online in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out where the selected plays were performed online via Zoom. There were no new plays in 2021, only archived and educational content.  

This year, VLF17 went hybrid with the theme "HINGA!", led by two new festival directors, Marco Viana and Tess Jamias. There were live performances at the CCP Tanghalang Huseng Batute from June 16-26, 2022, which were fully sold out even before opening day. In addition, there are now ongoing high definition recordings of the live performances streamed online at Ticket2Me which started last June 30 and runs up to July 10, 2022.

Because of schedule conflicts, I could not go to CCP to watch live stagings. Instead I bought an Online Festival Pass to be able to watch them anyway at home. A festival pass ticket cost P825 (P750 + P75 service fee). The links to all 4 sets were emailed to me a day before the date of my ticket. That day, I can access the plays for 48 hours, beginning 10 am. Each set lasts about 2-1/2 hours each, so be ready to spend 10 hours to watch.

Unlike the archived contest we watched last year which had poor video and audio quality as they were not really meant for commercial release, these new recordings were very clear, and used different cameras so the action was captured from several angles. Of course, this had an advantage of being able to rewind -- to rewatch memorable scenes, or to review lines you did not get the first time. Like before, there were four sets, with three plays in each set. 

SET A: LIFE IS FULL OF SURPRISES


Ma. Cecilia dela Rosa's "Mga Balo" (directed by Adrienne Vergara) told the story of playwright (Alon Segarra) who was writing a play about Widow 1 (Pau Benitez) who lost her husband Benjie in a drug raid and Widow 2 (Skyzx Labastilla) who lost her husband Amboy in a military encounter. This meta play tackled the play writing process in an interesting manner, and was able to send a strong message against wanton extrajudicial killings. 3/5


Bibeth Orteza's "Bituing Marikit" (directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna) told the story of three brothers Peping (JV Ibesate), Bok (Earle Figuarcion) and Butching (Joshua Tayco) who got back together with their father Allan (Gie Onida) because their mother passed away. Peping revealed a scandalous secret he knew about their mother, and confronted his father about it, as they all argue whether she should still have a wake or not. 2/5


Eljay Castro Deldoc's "Walang Bago sa Dulang Ito” (directed by J. William Hubert Sigmund Go and Tess Jamias) was about a female graduate student (Claudia Enriquez) who had been sexual abused while she was doing her studies on millipedes. The disturbing story was told with four other actresses (Marj Lorico, Wenah Nagales, Kath Castillo and Ji-ann Lachica) playing the various people in the life of the girl her professor demeaningly called Hija. 3/5


SET B: LIFE IS STRANGE FICTION


Jerry O'Hara's "Liberation" (directed by Dennis Marasigan) was about three Japanese soldiers arguing among themselves on what was the final day of World War 2 -- strict officer Danki (Bong Cabrera), sex maniac Haruto (Chrome Cosio) and young conflicted private Jiro (Karlo Erfe). The concept of this play of focusing on the behavior and ethics of enemy soldiers was very interesting. Haruto's intolerably vulgar language will get on your nerves. 3/5


BJ Crisostomo's “Absurdo: Events Day” (directed by Mara Agleham) was about a couple of disgruntled project coordinators, Alyssa (Charm Aranton) and Rain (Io Balanon), ranting about the crazy difficulties of their job as they prepare for a yearend concert. The chatterbox Gen Z lingo used throughout this play seemed to be a big hit for the young audience, even if it rendered the first 50% of the play unintelligible for a Boomer like me. 2/5


Juan Ekis' "Nay, May Dala Akong Pansit" (directed by Karl Alexis Jingco) was about Kuya (Lian Silverio) and Bunso (Manok Nella-Bagadiong) trying to prevent their mother's death by NOT giving her pansit for her birthday.  Silverio and Nella-Bagadiong were totally committed to their very exhausting roles of siblings caught in a perpetual loop. Mia Bolanos was hilarious as the repeatedly dying Nanay. Tommy Alejandrino played all the other side characters. 4/5

SET C: SCHOOL OF LIFE 


Anthony Kim Vergara's "Student's Handbook" (directed by Erika Estacio) was about the disciplinary meeting Fr. Oks (Jojo Cayabyab) called to reprimand students who had violated rules in their student handbook, namely Benjamin (Jerom Canlas), Claire (Marynor Madamesila), Pepito (Gabo Tolentino), Rick (Earvin Estioco). This angry play boldly tackled student activism, and even managed to throw shade against Covid-deniers. 2/5


Mikaela Regis' “Unica Hijas” (directed by Pat Valera) was about two senior high school girls -- Nikki (Joy delos Santos) and Mitch (Ash Nicanor) -- who were caught kissing and were trying to come to grips with their sexuality, their parents and their school. The winsome and very realistic portrayals of Nicanor and especially delos Santos make this play sweet and engaging, despite the sensitive LGBTQ topic that it tackles. 3/5


Andrew Bonifacio Clete's "Punks Not Dead" (directed by Roobak Valle) was about a stressful afternoon for teacher Apple (Martha Comia) who was confronted by a concerned mother Bireng (Mosang) and a paranoid policeman Artur (Paulo Cabanero). This hysterical play began by ribbing about faulty questions in school modules. Later it took a darker turn to suspected drug dealing, leading all the way up to a gasp-inducing ending. 3/5

SET D: LIFE CHOICES


Ryan Machado's "Huling Haraya nina Ischia at Emeteria" (directed by Regina de Vera) was about the conversations Emeteria (Kiki Baento) had with her daughter Ischia (Jovy Vieja) the night before the latter was to leave to study in Manila. There was a sudden shift in tone at the end, with creepy music and wind blowing, but I am not entirely sure what that was about. The Onhan language and accent of Romblon was a point of interest. 2/5


George Vail Kabrisante's "Bienvenuta Al Lido de Venezia" (directed by Nanding Josef and Antonette Go) was about a middle-aged domestic helper in Venice named Viola (Tex Ordonez de Leon) being interviewed by a researcher Charice (Lhorvie Nuevo) about her ordeal with the border patrols and her current life with partner Maximo (Jonathan Tadioan). Ordonez-de Leon dominates this dark play with her passionate monologues and opera singing. 3/5


Dustin Celestino's "Fermata" (directed by Guelan Luarca) was about Ben (Xander Soriano) being wracked with guilt from sordid rumors about his deceased father sexually abusing his male students. Basti Artadi was riveting as Alex, a former student of Ben's dad who had long repressed the trauma, now being dug up again by his friend. The title refers to an indefinite prolongation of a musical note, a metaphor for the lingering effects of sexual abuse.  4/5


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Ticket2Me: Review of TP's DOC RESURECCION, GAGAMUTIN NG BAYAN: Noxious Nuisance

April 18, 2022



Because of his intelligence and perseverance, Jess Resureccion (Marco Viana) has overcome extreme poverty to become a doctor. He now wants to run as mayor in their poor fishing village, in a sincere desire to bring real change and progress to the place where he grew up as a child. However, Dr. Jess's boorish, barely educated cousin, Boy Pogi Resureccion (Jonathan Tadioan), was running against him, obviously as a nuisance candidate in order to confuse voters because of their similar surnames.

The play followed the events of one fateful day when Dr. Jess went out of the way of his campaign trail to visit the seaside hovel where Boy Pogi lived with his parents the drunkard Papang (Nanding Josef) and patis-maker Mamang (Sherry Lara), and his wife Elsa (Llorvie Nuevo), a former prostitute Boy and Jess knew (in the biblical sense) since their teens. Dr. Jess wanted to convince Boy to willingly withdraw his candidacy, so he, Jess, would have a better chance to win against the current incompetent mayor. 

The one-act play "Doc Resureccion, Gagamutin ang Bayan" by Layeta Bucoy first hit the stage in Virgin Labfest 2009. The next year, it was one of those selected in the Revisited category of the same theater festival. In 2012, the play was re-staged once again by Tanghalang Pilipino as part of their “Eyeball” production, which featured four of the best short plays from previous Virgin Labfests. Unfortunately, I had never seen any of these previous productions of this famous play, until now. 

This year, 10 years later, during a most heated presidential election period, Tanghalang Pilipino has decided to revive this play yet another time, in its advocacy for voters education. It hopes to push its dark, hard-hitting story about underhanded political machinations during elections which will shock Gen Z first-time voters, as well as jaded veteran voters alike. This new iteration of the play was filmed as it was performed live on the stage of the CCP Main Theater directed by Dennis Marasigan, and is being presented online via Ticket2Me.

The opening conversations between Jess and Boy may seem like playful banter about the stark contrast between their two lives. However, you can already hear the underlying bitterness and contempt beneath all of Boy's brutally profane anecdotes about his father's shaking hand or his wife's fishy privates. While Viana played his idealistic clueless straight man wearing his sincerity out on his sleeve, Tadioan skillfully delivered his lines with a jolly face and demeanor, and yet still have them drip with an unmistakable sense of danger. 

The significance of this play in the current election season cannot be denied, and its precautionary message about the election process is sobering. Having it premiere yesterday morning because of the parallelism between the name Resureccion and Easter Sunday was already a nice touch. However, the sheer coincidence of having the premiere of a play about a toxic nuisance candidate to coincide with one illogical nuisance of a press conference, could not have been timed more perfectly. 


*****


Artistic Crew: Layeta Bucoy (Playwright), Dennis Marasigan (Stage Direction and Lighting Design), Pong Ignacio (Cinematography), TJ Ramos (Musical and Sound Design), Ohm David (Set Design), Daniel Gregorio (Costume Design), Antonette Go (Assistant Director).

The filmed play will be streamed on the Ticket2Me platform from April 17 hanggang April 30, 2022. Buy your tickets on this Ticket2Me link: https://ticket2me.net/e/34853