BRAVO! BEST OF THEATER 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12.18.2006
This year, women and kids of nuance, energy and talent ruled the stage
Asked once to give advice to actresses looking for good roles, the Broadway diva Patti Lupone said, “Come to the theater... [where] I’m playing women my age and in control.”
Many local actresses would know what Lupone was talking about. Meaty, interesting roles for mature women have all but dried up in movies, while TV offers nothing but clichéd parts.
Theater, however, is where dames of a certain age can rule, where experience and acquired character can translate to greater luminosity in front of the footlights.
This year, local stages offered a remarkable array of heavyweight roles for senior female thespians: Lady Torrance in Tennessee Williams’ “Orpheus Descending”; Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s “Master Class”; Sr. Aloysius in John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt”; Maria Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music”; Paulina Escobar in “Death and the Maiden”; ZsaZsa Zaturnnah in the musical bearing her name; any of the various characters in Eve Ensler’s “The Good Body”... And we’re talking only of lead parts here.
Young actors, too, made their presence felt, with various productions showcasing their immense energy and talent.
The recital of the Philippine High School for the Arts’ graduating class presented at least three superlative plays, while Peta’s Metropolitan Teen Theater Guild offered a “Don Quixote” for the Ragnarok era that raised the bar on improvisation.
Over at Ateneo de Manila, the high school kids of Onofre Pagsanghan’s Dulaang Sibol enchanted audiences with their musical “Adarna,” while their college counterparts at Tanghalang Ateneo closed the year with a defiant staging of “Middle Finger Po.”
We’ll say it again: If these upcoming actors are the future of the industry, we can breathe more easily for Philippine theater.
This year also saw Herbie Go, the artistic director of CCP’s Tanghalang Pilipino, leave his post to join his family in the US, with CCP marketing head Dennis Marasigan taking over the company.
Under Go’s watch, TP shed its “historical-boring” image (his own words) to serve up theatrical fare marked by freshness and iconoclastic daring, best exemplified by its two biggest crowd-drawers, “R’meo Luvs Dhew-lhiett” (a jologs adaptation of the Bard’s play) and “ZsaZsa Zaturnnah.”
Go also had a hand in establishing the “Virgin Labfest,” an annual festival of new plays by Filipino playwrights that may yet prove to be his big legacy to local theater.
Here’s our two cents’ worth on the best of Manila theater in 2006. The more unfamiliar the names, the younger the actors probably are—and that’s a good thing in our book.
Best Play (one act)
“Welcome to IntelStar” (Chris Martinez, writer/director). This witty, subtle parody of the call-center phenomenon employed an unprepossessing device—a company orientation program for new hires—to pose absurdist questions about identity, alienation, self-exile and self-respect. A perceptive, subversive gem.
Honorable mentions: “Ang Unang Aswang” (Rody Vera; Herbie Go and Dulaang Sipat Lawin, dirs.); “First Snow of November” (Alvin Dacanay; Herbie Go and Dulaang Sipat Lawin, dirs.); “Lihis” (Martin Sherman’s “Bent,” translated by Manny Canteras; Herbie Go and Dulaang Sipat Lawin, dirs.); “Tres Ataques de Corazon” (Nicolas Pichay; Vince de Jesus, dir.); “Ars Poetica” (Eugene Evasco and Chris Martinez; Arlo de Guzman, dir.)
Best Play (full-length)
“Orfeo sa Impiyerno” (Tennessee Williams’ “Orpheus Descending,” translated by George de Jesus III; Jose Estrella, dir.). Tennessee Williams’ overripe drama about passion and prejudice in a small town became the year’s most moving theatrical experience, anchored by Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino’s shattering central performance.
Honorable mentions: “Godot, Wer Is U?” (Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” translated by George de Jesus III; Alain Timar, dir.); “Doubt” (John Patrick Shanley; Chari Arespacochaga, dir.); “Master Class” (Terrence McNally; Michael Williams, dir.); “Don_Q” (dramaturgy by Jovi Miroy, scenes devised by Peta’s Metropolitan Teen Theater Guild; Chris Millado, dir.); “Middle Finger Po” (Han Ong; Ronan Capinding, translator/director)
Andoy Ranay (“Shock Value”). In Floy Quintos’ play about the elusive truth of TV entertainment, Ranay commanded attention by personifying, down to the last prefabricated smile or tear, the synthetic authenticity at the heart of successful celebrity-hood.
Honorable mentions: Abner Delina Jr. (“First Snow of November”); JJ Ignacio (“Middle Finger Po”), Niccolo Manahan (“Doubt”); Paolo O’Hara and Bong Cabrera (“Godot, Wer Is U?”); Lakhi Siap and Acey Aguilar (“Lihis”); Jeremy Domingo (“Hamlet Redux”); Christian Segarra (“Don_Q”)
Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino (“Orfeo sa Impiyerno”). Of Vanessa Redgrave’s performance in the 1989 Broadway staging of “Orpheus Descending,” Frank Rich wrote, “Miss Redgrave takes complete, perhaps eternal possession of the role of Lady Torrance.” Centenera-Buencamino performed a similar act of stunning appropriation in the TP adaptation.
Honorable mentions: Cherie Gil (“Doubt”); Jay Glorioso (“Master Class”); Eugene Domingo (“Welcome to IntelStar”); Juno Henares and Pinky Amador (“The Good Body”); Irma Adlawan and Mailes Kanapi (“Bakeretta”); Leah Tarynne Abella (“Calamba”/Severino Montano Trilogy), Amihan Tence Ruiz (“Ang Unang Aswang”)
Best Featured Actor-Play
Richard Cunanan (“Hamlet Redux”). Tony Mabesa’s genre-bending take on the Shakespearean classic found its wily, sleazy, charming Claudius in Cunanan, whose porcine frame oozed corruption from every pore.
Honorable mentions: Kenn Cayunda (“Middle Finger Po”); Cris Pasturan and Paolo Rodriguez (“Godot, Wer Is U?”); Mario O’Hara (“Orfeo sa Impiyerno”); Jake de Leon (“Ang Nilalang ni Victor Frankenstein”); Faust Peneyra (“Shock Value”); Tony Amador (“7 ng Umaga”); Jason Barcial (“Don_Q”)
Best Featured Actress-Play
Mailes Kanapi (“Orfeo sa Impiyerno”). This actress was on a roll this year, with topnotch performances in “Orfeo,” Chong Wishing’s “Bakeretta” and Rody Vera’s “The Return of Flor.” Here, she took your breath away with a demonstration of sheer emotional need and nakedness as the town outcast Carol.
Honorable mentions: Missy Maramara and Jacinta Remulla (“Shock Value”); Jay Glorioso and Cathy Azanza (“Doubt”); Enchang Kaimo (“7 ng Umaga”); Nicole Pacqueo (“Ang Nilalang ni Victor Frankenstein”); Ma. Adeinev Reyes (“Middle Finger Po”)
“ZsaZsa Zaturnnah” (music and lyrics by Vince de Jesus; Chris Millado, dir.). “Victoria! Winner! Tagumpay!,” as one of its songs went. Millado’s fearless, outrageously imaginative transplantation of the cult comicbook to the musical stage made for the very essence of Pinoy camp.
Honorable mentions: “The Sound of Music” (music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; Baby Barredo, dir.); “We’re Still Hot!” (music by JJ McColl and Rueben Gurr, lyrics by JJ McColl; Leo Rialp, dir.); “Joseph the Dreamer” (adapted from a Cam Floria cantata; Freddie Santos, dir.); “Adarna” (music and lyrics by Dulaang Sibol; Onofre Pagsanghan, dir.)
Joey Paras (“ZsaZsa Zaturnnah”). Ricci Chan may have originated the role of Didi (terrifically), but it was Paras who brought the necessary warmth and whimsy to the role to make the musical, sans the neon externals, a valentine to friendship.
Honorable mentions: Ricci Chan and Tuxqs Rutaquio (“ZsaZsa Zaturnnah”); Audie Gemora (“The Sound of Music”); Franco Laurel (“Joseph the Dreamer”); Robbie Guevarra (“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”)
Eula Valdes (“ZsaZsa Zaturnnah”). The year’s most entrancing discovery, movie star Valdes amazed everyone with her singing-dancing-acting-fighting turn onstage as the red-haired superheroine. In theater pillar Tony Mabesa’s words: “She is to the theater born!”
Honorable mentions: Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and Monique Wilson (“The Sound of Music”); Liesl Batucan (“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”); Pinky Marquez (“We’re Still Hot!”), Lanie Sumalinog (“Gabriela, an Oratorio”)
Best Featured Actor-Musical
Arnold Reyes (“ZsaZsa Zaturnnah”). Alternate Lauren Novero was the hunkier Dodong, but in place of the former’s hustler vibe, Reyes won you over with a mix of boyish naivete and sensitive singing.
Honorable mentions: Joel Trinidad (“Something to Crow About”); Lauren Novero (“ZsaZsa Zaturnnah”); Raymund Concepcion (“Joseph the Dreamer”); Topper Fabregas (“The Sound of Music”)
Best Featured Actress-Musical
Pinky Marquez (“The Sound of Music”). The mighty “Climb Every Mountain,” sung by Marquez as the Mother Abbess, offered a thrilling Act 1 finale to the classic musical. Count in her assured acting, and you understand why Marquez stood out here and in an earlier show, “We’re Still Hot!”
Honorable mentions: Camille Lopez-Molina (“The Sound of Music”); Kalila Aguilos and Agot Isidro (“ZsaZsa Zaturnnah”); Nina Romualdez (“We’re Still Hot!”); Pam Gumabon (“Joseph the Dreamer”)
Erratum: Leah Tarynne Abella's citation is for “Sabina,” not “Parting at Calamba,” both of the UP Playwrights Theater's Severino Montano Trilogy.
Read “Bravo! Best of Theater 2005” here.