Saturday, June 1, 2019

Review of Artist Playground's LARO: Interlocking Intimacies

June 1, 2019

"La Ronde" by Arthur Schnitzler was controversial from the get-go because of its sexually-charged subject matter. It took twenty years before a public performance was actually staged after it was privately published in 1900, and it still provoked scandalized public uproar. The play followed encounters of ten people -- the Whore, the Soldier, the Parlor Maid, the Young Gentleman, the Young Wife, the Husband, the Little Miss, the Poet, the Actress and the Count -- as one character was linked to another one in sequential scenes. 

Fifteen years ago, Floy Quintos adapted "La Ronde" into Filipino and transposed the setting into the gay underbelly of Manila. The characters have been changed accordingly as well -- Call Boy, Policeman, Drag Queen, User, Lover, the Ideal, Student, Writer, Model and Philanthropist. This Pride Month June 2019, Artists Playground had chosen to restage "Laro," under the direction of John Mark Yap, who also updated Quintos's script with some current references and details. 

Call Boy was accosted by the Policeman in the park after a raid. The Policemen flirted with the Drag Queen outside the bar. The Drag Queen went to the mall to shop with her User boyfriend. The User boyfriend met up with a Lover from an online chatroom. The Lover was feeling stifled by his Ideal partner. The Ideal met up with his boytoy Student at the basketball court. Student confessed his story to his Writer cousin. Writer interviewed the popular underwear Model. Model was toyed with by his Philanthropist sugar daddy. Philanthropist hired a Call Boy for short-time fling.

The topics of each conversation really ran the gamut of emotions experienced in such relationships -- from sleazy to serious, from silly to scary, from saucy to scandalous. Each scene will affect you differently. some having stronger impact than others. The scene where the Drag Queen was being abused by her User boyfriend was the most painful. That sordid scene of the Ideal and Student's basketball teammates felt the dirtiest. The smoke from characters vaping and the use of red lighting to highlight steamy scenes further gave the play a seedy atmosphere which may make viewers uninitiated in this GBTQ world very uncomfortable. 

Dela Cruz, Palmos, Paule and Miguel

André Miguel was a smiling playful Call Boy. Paul Jake Paule was a naughty corrupt Policeman (Pulis). Phi Palmos was a long-suffering martyr Drag Queen. Gio Gahol was a cold shameless User (Mangagamit). MC Dela Cruz was a reluctant curious Lover (Kalaguyo). Victor Sy was a perverse Alpha Male Ideal.  Ross Pesigan was a vulnerable naive Student (Estudyante). Vincent Pajara was a wry, pragmatic Writer (Manunulat). Jonathan Ivan Rivera was a muscle-bound dimwit Model (Modelo). Vincent De Jesus was a jaded, world-weary rich Philanthropist (Pilantropo). These actors all boldly bared their bodies and souls as they portrayed these wolves and lambs in this menagerie. 

Mike Liwag alternates as Manggagamit. Al Gatmaitan alternates as The Ideal. Jon Abella alternates as Manunulat. Jay Gonzaga alternates as Modelo. Players of Artist Playground, namely Aaron Dioquino, Dan Sheneill Solis, Robert Macaraeg, and Christian Silang, are the props men throughout the play, but also appear onstage as Students' teammates.  

The artistic team behind director John Mark Yap (in his directorial debut for a full-length play) include Io Balanon (set design), Nicolo Perez (costume design), Miggy Panganiban (lighting design), Arvy Dimaculangan (sound design) and JM Cabling (movement design).  

Sy, Pesigan, De Jesus, Rivera and Pajara


"LARO" runs for two weekends, June 1-2, and 8-9, 2019, with 3 pm and 7 pm shows. Venue is at Arts Above, West Venue Building (BIR), West Avenue, QC. Purchase tickets at only P600 each, either via or at the gate. Play lasts for approximately 2-1/2 hours, an hour plus per act with a 10-minute break.

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