I have heard about the Virgin Labfest before, but I have never yet watched any of its past nine incarnations. This year, some time opened up for me this afternoon so I was able to go to the CCP and try my luck to get a ticket. Good thing I was lucky enough to finally get to watch this much-awaited event in local theater.
This festival is all about giving the playwrights, both veteran and new, an opportunity to showcase their newest unstaged works. This year's 12 entries were selected from 160+ plays submitted. That statistic alone says so much about the quality of the plays.
The 12 selected plays were divided into four sets of three. For each ticket you buy, you get to watch three one-act plays staged in the intimate Tanghalang Huseng Batute. For today, the scheduled set to be staged was Stage B. I watched these plays without knowing what they were about and who would be acting in them. I was very pleasantly surprised how thought-provoking everything was this afternoon.
1. WENDY WANTS TO BE A HOUSEWIFE
Written by Dingdong Novenario.
Directed by Joshua Lim So
Wendy (Delphine Buencamino) is a driven and ambitious employee in an IT company. One day after eight years, she submits her resignation to her supervisor Mark (Topper Fabregas). Her reason: she wants to be a housewife. Mark finds her decision strange and unacceptable since she does not even have a husband or even a potential husband yet.
This play only has two characters so it was essential that the two actors had chemistry with each other. Buencamino was an energetic delight as Wendy. You totally feel her feeling of stagnation in her present occupation which she feels is hampering her social life. Fabregas had the more difficult role of reacting to the various odd declarations of Wendy. He had to switch from "Boss" hat to "Friend" hat several times during the run of the play. They succeeded in developing the essential sexual tension that the script required in order for it to work.
The script by Novenario fully reveals his background in the IT industry in real life with all the jargon interspersed in there. He was able to capture the female point of view quite well. The script is funny and smart, and to the point.
2. ANG NAGHIHINGALO
Written by Raymund Reyes
Directed by Dennis Marasigan
Intoy suddenly suffers a stroke and needs P300,000 for brain surgery to drain the hemorrhage. Being an ice cream seller who was just recently laid off from work, they do not have the money for this. Intoy's wife Felisa seeks the help of Intoy's three elder siblings, Guido, Doreen and Ate Linda. As Intoy lies critically in the ICU, his three siblings end up squabbling over past family issues instead of coming up with the cash.
At first, this play did not seem so promising because of the rather common and morose initial premise, as well the unfamiliar actors. However, as the play progressed, especially with the entry of Bong Cabrera as loud-mouthed Guido, the play's hilarious over-the-top nature revealed itself. The entry of Dolly de Leon as the flamboyant loan shark eldest sister Linda further upped the comedy scale even more.
Because of my background, I enjoyed the medical aspects of the play and how lay people misinterpret what the doctors tell them, and the common beliefs about strokes and aneurysms. Those absurd medical hypotheses on how the stroke probably happened certainly kept me in stitches. Reyes also found a trove of rib-tickling comedy from the many sub-issues this play tackles, like public school teachers, drinking sessions of men, the nouveau riche, marrying older foreigners, etc.
3. THE MISSING PEACE
Written by Carlo Vergara
Directed by Marlon Rivera
In the year 2045, the Philippines had already won four of the big five beauty titles, with only the Miss Universal Empress title left. Ms. Philippines Candy Coron (Hannah dela Guerra) will compete to win that last title and has a big chance to complete a grand slam. Backstage, Candy's trainer Greg Rodrigo (Rem Zamora) and the head of the Philippine delegation, Ms. Sylvia Dayrit (Noemi Manikan-Gomez) discuss an ancient Spanish-era prophecy that seems to predict Candy's win and the world peace which would ensue. However, there is a dire consequence.
The beauty pageant setting, especially the Q&A portion, is automatically entertaining for the Pinoy audience. Ms. dela Guerra with her flawless face, figure and long legs, plays a perfect Ms. Philippines beauty queen. I do hope we see her more in future plays. It was a great surprise to see Rep and Red Turnip actor Zamora so effortlessly essay the role of her mentor in the pageant biz on the Labfest stage. He fit the role like a glove. Ms. Manikan-Gomez was also so well-cast, so credible as an aging beauty queen who was so delightful in her self-confessed gullibility.
Vergara first entered Pinoy pop consciousness as the creator of Zsazsa Zaturnnah. Last year, he had his first Labfest entry, "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady," which had been selected as one of the three VL IX plays to be re-staged in Set E this year. After super-heroines, he turned to another favorite gay icon -- the beauty queen. I must admit that I found the prophecy angle was a little too far-out and the ending had me scratching my head in puzzlement. But that is the important thing there, that these plays challenge their audiences to think for themselves.
These Set B plays will be shown again on July 5 (8 pm) and July 6 (3 pm).
Tickets are at P300 each. I am not sure if there are still festival passes on sale. Call 832-3704 or 891-9999 for tickets.