Monday, December 18, 2006

My two cents' worth

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)

Best Actor-Play
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”)

Best Actress-Play
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”)

Best Musical
“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.)

Best Actor-Musical
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”)

Best Actress-Musical
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.


jj ignacio said...

hi gibbs! thanks for the citation! i really appreciate it! :) JJ

Walter said...

i would like to dissect this further with you in real life. = )

beektur said...

Ganda ganda, kahit wala akong napanood ni isa man sa mga produksiyon damang dama ko sa mga sinusulat mo na buhay ang teatro sa Kamaynilaan. Sana sa isang taon paliparin ka ng INQ sa ibang sulok ng bansa para sa mga pangrehiyong teatro. Ano na ang nangyayari sa Kambayoka? Salidummay? Dagyaw? Kaliwat?

You are doing a great service to Philippine Theater. BTW, salamat sa 2 CDs ni Lozada. I'm feeling faklempt right now. I swear kapag nakita ko lahat ng 13 CDs I will stop being a kvetch.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Gibbs, "pakopya" ako ng mga awards ha. I'll mke my own too. salamat. -rai

abs said...

Hello po! Maraming salamat po sa pag-consider...Nakakatuwa..:)Sana ay patuloy na maging mabunga at tangkilikin ang mundo ng teatro.

micketymoc said...

Shit! I missed Doubt! Do you know if they're going to show it again?!

Abaniko said...

Ewan ko ba basta ako, nakatulog ako doon sa "Orfeo Sa Impiyerno." Ambagal kasi. Kumbaga sa sex, ang haba-haba-haba ng foreplay. Pero hanep ang actors ha. Gagaleng! Agree akong Best Actress nga si Shamaine doon.

Pero nakatulog talaga ako...

Alvin said...

Uy, salamat sa karangalang banggit! Nakakatabang-puso. Ü

gibbs cadiz said...

ey JJ, you're welcome! you and your castmates deserve to be recognized. antapang niyo ha, ano daw sabi ng mga ateneo priests? hehe. keep up the good work! :)

deal, WALTER. :)

BEEKTUR, nawa'y magdilang anghel ka at mabigyan nga ako ng pagkakataon na ma-cover ang regional/community theater. after all, the very first standing ovation i remember giving in my life was for sining kambayoka from marawi state university, when they performed halik sa kampilan in sorsogon as part of the now-defunct ccp outreach program. i was 17 years old. ganda nun! :)

ey RAI, ayos lang. :)

hello ABNER! thank you for visiting the blog. i hope to see you in more plays. really good work in 'first snow of november,' congrats! :)

hi MICKETYMOC, i'm afraid atlantis productions won't be restaging 'doubt.' haven't heard of any plans. :)

ABANIKO, there are rewards to being patient, especially with material written way before our hyperactive, attention-challenged times. :)

hey ALVIN, you're welcome! more good pieces like 'first snow.' :)

jake de leon said...

hi gibbs! it's jake de leon. i read your article. thanks so much for the mention! what a christmas gift! love it! hahahaha. thanks mucho! and happy holidays!

beektur said...

Kakabasa ko pa lang ng iyong Best of 2005. Noong isang taon pala ang hiling mo ay mabisita ng mas madalas ang mga pangrehiyong teatro ngayong taon. At ngayong taon, yan din ang hiling mo para sa susunod na taon. Sa susunod na taon kaya? Hehe.

Just saw Matthew Bourne's production of Edward Scissorhands sa SFO. What a bore! Sa January, I'm watching Company AND Chorus Line AND Grey Gardens sa NYC. Punta ka na dali. BTW, I have a Grey Gardens DVD for you. Criterion siyempre.

Rody Vera said...

Hi gibbs!

what a wonderful tribute! Second year mo na itong ginagawa! That's something to look forward to every december.

Magkasing-edad pala ang year-end tribute mo at ang Virgin Labfest! Sana magpatuloy ang dalawang ito nang matagal na matagal. Kapit, wag bibitiw!

just a small comment, though-- sa pagkakatanda ko, Martin Sherman's Bent is not a 1 act play. Marami lang sigurong inedit si Herbie sa original script.

Congrats at Merry christmas!

R. O. said...

Ay, ang gusto kong manalo ng Best Actress ay si Eugene Domingo for Intelstar. Wala lang. (Wala ba tayong local version ng Tony Awards? Sad.)

gibbs cadiz said...

hi JAKE! glad to hear from you. you're welcome. :)

BEEKTUR, yan ay pangarap na mejo matatagalan pa ata matupad. wala budget para makapunta ng probinsiya, hay. :)

ey RODY, an honor to have you here. i look forward to more good plays from the Writers' Bloc... re 'lihis,' yep, herbie go pared it down to a one-act production, and that's what i saw. still great, though. :) merry christmas!

haha RESTY, panalo din si eugene sa 'intelstar.' it was the first play i raved about this year; i said in my review that it had the distinction of kickstarting the year on a high note. :)

JV said...

Sadly, I haven't watch either ZsaZsa Zaturnnah or the Sound of Music Musicals in the theater. But my friends said that it was an amazing production and all star casts!

Advance Merry Christmas Gibbs!

vincedejesus said...

Hey, Gibbs!

Thank you for citing ZsaZsa ZAturnnah as Best Musical. Hindi man kami nanalo sa ALIW AWARDS... wagi naman kami sa PDI. O di va? Saan po namin kukunin ang trophy? :)

Uy, salamat din sa honorable mention sa TRES ATAQUES DE CORAZONES. Btw, they had a special run yesterday sa isang event ng HARRISON and it was well-received. Thanks to Sir Dennis Marasigan who took over the re-mounting of the trilogy kasi ngarag ako kakaraket ngayong pasko. Congrats again TP!

Merry Christmas, Gibbs! And thank you for keeping Philippine Theater alive by devoting precious time watching the plays and writing about them. Maganda man o may puna ang isinulat, nakakatulong pa rin ito sa ating lahat upang mas ipagbuti ang ating ginagawa sa tanghalan. Ohh, mag-speech ba?

May your tribe increase.

jay said...

Bakit hindi nanalo si Bong Cabrera? Ang galing niya sa Godot Wer is U? at tsaka sa Bakeretta. siguro sobrang fan lang ako ni Mr. Cabrera. Para sa akin siya pa din ang panalo. :)

Ang saya ng mga reviews mo. Sana every year na ito ganito.:)

gibbs cadiz said...

hi JV, merry christmas din! do catch 'zsazsa's' rerun this january 2007. :)

haha, salamat, VINCE! more musicals from you! :)

hi jay, i agree that bong cabrera is very good in both productions. meron lang mas nakahigit sa kanya this year, in my opinion. but i've no doubt that mr. cabrera's time to shine will come. i hope ako pa din makapagsulat about that. :)

howie severino said...

I saw The Sound of Music with my four-year-old son who enjoyed it as much as I did, seeing in Maria his own yaya. Didn't seem to notice Monique Wilson's name in the citations; for a veteran like her to pull off playing a character that age was a feat.

Beektur is right about regional theater: I also saw Antigong Agong, an entertaining musical in Zamboanga, with all the actors from war-torn Jolo and music by Popong Landero of Davao.

gibbs cadiz said...

hi HOWIE, thanks for dropping by and posting a comment. glad to know you and your son enjoyed 'the sound of music.' i do agree that monique wilson did an exemplary job as maria, so she and menchu lauchengco-yulo are in fact listed among the 'honorable mentions' for best actress-musical in my line-up, for the said role. :)

yes, it has been my fond wish to cover regional theater, too, and i do hope the paper will recognize its importance and allow me to do it soon. :)

howie severino said...

Oops my slip, you did honorably mention Monique!

And thanks for remembering Dulaang Sibol and Onofre Pagsanjan's contributions. This was my first and only involvement in theater, and its lessons never left me...

If you haven't already, try to catch the Sibol classic, Sinta. It plays every year I think.

Anonymous said...

Faust Peneyra & Jacinta Remulla as honorable mentions among the best featured actors? You gotta be kidding us?!!!

christian segarra said...

Hi sir gibbs,

I didn,t notice that we can post our comments. Ngayon ko lang po napansin. Thanks for mentioning don_Q in your year-end line up. Sayang hindi nakaabot yung review sa printing. Pero nakakataba po ng puso ang mga sinabi ninyo. Malaking bagay po iyon sa mga young actors ng PETA. Maraming salamat po.

- Ian Segarra

gibbs cadiz said...

hi IAN, you're welcome. keep up the good work! :)

Anonymous said...

Amazing site! Keep up the good posts.

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