Monday, February 19, 2007

Madness, memory and grace

REVIEW: The Glass Menagerie / The Pretenders (Ang Mga Huwad)
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 02.19.2007

Two plays explore the thin line between absurd reality and comfortable delusion

Tennessee Williams described “The Glass Menagerie” as a “memory play,” where reveries happened to music and truth came “in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”

These words weren’t in his notes. They formed the opening lines of the play itself, spoken by the Narrator, Tom Wingfield.

This convention-busting opening allowed Williams to set both the spirit and style of the play: nostalgia, wistfulness—a looking back at the past with all the mournful, brittle hindsight of the present.

For a drama that thus began by announcing its intention to steep itself in the narcotizing effects of memory, Tanghalang Ateneo’s “The Glass Menagerie,” under Ricky Abad’s direction, spent an uncomfortable amount of time peering into—nay, preempting—the future.

The dreamy, rueful air that Williams brought to his most personal work—“The Glass Menagerie” most closely mirrored his own family life—curdled every time the play segued into its clairvoyant mode. More here...

Madness also serves as the defining motif in Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Ang Mga Huwad,” Rody Vera’s stage adaptation of F. Sionil José’s novel “The Pretenders,” under Chris Millado’s direction.

In José’s impassioned narrative on the infinite corrupting power of the Filipino upper class, the lunacy of Carmen Villa, the wife of the main character Tony Samson, might be construed as castigation for the collective sins of her social peers.

But while José tucked it near the end of the book like an afterthought, Vera and Millado have seized on the image of Villa’s tangled memories as the play’s dramatic anchor, the prism through which the story of Tony Samson would unfold onstage. More here...


Also in PDI, Shirley O. Lua offers another view of “The Pretenders (Ang Mga Huwad).”


chino said...

i love jose's books.. I've read most of them but not The Pretenders.. My favorite of them all is Po-on..

Dennis said...


Thanks for spending time to write about Ang Mga Huwad. Keep them coming!


beektur said...

thanks for the good reviews. even if sayang because i hadn't watched the productions myself, i got a good picture of how they were. objective but not clinical. more of the informed critic in you than an impassioned fan. but then again, they were both not musical plays, which tend to make your writing a bit more...(fervid?) ;)

snglguy said...

I've seen the film adaptation of "The Glass Managerie" starring Jane Wyatt and a very young Kirk Douglas many moons ago, black and white pa. :-)

eastcoastlife said...

hoho Gibbs,
It's been some time since I last read your blog. And you have become a celebrity blogger of some sort. haha....

Love your Valentine's Day post! Getting 54 comments makes you the killer, man!

Overjoy to see that you are still keeping me on your list of links. Don't tell me you're too lazy or have no time to edit the list. Don't break my fragile heart. lol...

Hey, you rock!

Anonymous said...

Just some observations:
>> I think Bong Cabrera's acting is a bit monotonous. If you compare his acting in Godot, Wer Is u, Bakeretta and The Pretenders, you'll see what I mean. But he's a good actor, there's no doubt about that.
>> I didn't recognize Wena Nagales as the flamenco dancer because I was unaware she can sing. :) She's an outstanding actress though. I liked her as Dory in Pagsibigan's Palanca in My Mind. I heard she was awesome in Romeo Luvs Dewlhiett. I also liked her character as a nosy neighbor in Orpeo sa Impiyerno.
>> My friends thought Kalila's nude scene in the ending part is unnecessary. I argued by saying it's significant for the story because she has to bare herself from hipocrisy. (Hehe. I'm not sure if it's making any sense)
>> When Tony Samson spoke to his son, I remember the play Mass where Pepe Samson talked to his father. The Pretender's interconnection to The Mass is very much evident in terms of the stage design.
>> Pardon me but I think Ama Quiambao doesn't fit the role.
>> I just don't get the significance of the tree in the stage. Can anybody tell me? :)
>>By the way, I took up Production Design under Sir Dennis Marasigan. I don't think he still recognizes me.


Anonymous said...

hey mr. gibs,

Comming from TA, the comeback of
Laurice was a disappointment.
Her strong stage presence gets distructed with numerous "going-ons" at the stage.

Seems like the've forgotten to consider the proper accent for this play. The cast, especially the gentleman caller, seems to be delivering his lines as he memorized it.. not as he understands it!

The comeback... should have been better.. all hype.. careful next season please..

gibbs cadiz said...

hi CHINO, go see 'The Pretenders' nevertheless. :)

ey DENNIS, thanks a lot! hats off to you for your open and encouraging stance on criticism. :)

hehe, BEEKTUR, let's just say that when it comes to musicals, i actually am more careful because i'm always in danger of losing it. :)

SNGLGUY, there is, huh? i have to look for that film in dvd. hope a chinese/malaysian pirate is reading this, hahaha! :)

ey EASTCOASTLIFE, thanks for dropping by! of course you stay in my links. you were one of the first to link me up, remember? do visit again. you rock too! :)

hi RAI, thanks for sharing your observations. re bong cabrera, let me share this tidbit: i watched 'the pretenders' twice, and on both occasions, the audience did not applaud a single scene--except that one with romnick s. confronting paolo o'hara over the cancelled check, with bong c. just sitting there a silent spectator. after that heated scene, a few in the audience actually clapped. my guess is that they all felt the palpable tension generated by paolo and romnick's fierce acting in that scene, helped along by bong c., who, while he just sat there, showed with his body language just how torn and conflicted, how uncomfortable and embarrassed he was to be caught in the crossfire between these two friends of his. he didn't say a word, but his silence spoke volumes. of course, too bad that for the rest of the play his character was merely a sketch. :)... and yes, isn't wenah nagales a wonderful actress? what i like about her is that you can actually see her grow, try out new things and succeed in them in every successive play that she appears in. i love watching her. she was my choice for best featured actress (for r'meo luvs dew-lhiett') in my 2005 'best of theater' roundup!... re the dead tree, here's my take on it: 'Tuxqs Rutaquio’s set of cold geometric planes punctuated here and there by dead saplings helps convey the aridity of the life the plebeian Samson took for himself when he married into the grasping aristocracy.' (from my published review)... hey DENNIS, you have a former student here! (rai, that's dennis marasigan in the previous post.) :)

hey MR. ANONYMOUS, thanks for your thoughts re 'glass menagerie.' i agree with the 'numerous goings-on' point. :)

vincedejesus said...

i think the tree was a reference to f. sionil jose's other work, TREE. but what do i know, im just a musical director. i may be wrong he he he. will ask tuxqs, the designer.

this is the third sionil play chris millado and rody vera worked on together. first was "BALETE" or "TREE" for PETA (where, fortunately, i was the musical director --- it featured nanding josef and the late rj leyran) then there was "MASS" and now "THE PRETENDERS" for tanghalang pilipino.

sayang, hindi ko napanood ang "ANG MGA HUWAD." in-award nga ako ni rody at kalila kanina kasi hindi daw ako nanood. hay... mahirap kasi ang buhay. kailangang magtrabaho, sabay sa mga plays na gusto kong panoorin.

Anonymous said...

Hi, would have written a critique on this play, but since, much has been said about it already, can i Just share my partial thoughts on it as well?

1.I think mr. cabrera’s character, Charlie, is flat to begin with. I mean, the way sionil jose wrote the character, to my opinion, is similar to mr. cadiz’ point-- just a sketch. So I think, that it would really take a good actor to breathe life on it onstage to make it 3D. I think, mr.cabrera has done what he
could, and was rather successful. I don’t think good acting
equates to the number of lines one has to deliver to make his/her
character stand out. If I may add, sometimes, absence makes the
presence more felt.Non-utterance in itself is a text worthy to be read. And oh, don’t you think that that scene with paolo o’hara, romnick sarmenta and bong Cabrera, one of the highlights of the play? Come to think of it, if Charlie didn’t
mention anything about life and death, if he didn’t give Tony
Samson an idea of how to embattle his dissolution, do you think
he would have committed such an act of personal ‘redemption’?
hehe. Just a thought.although i haven't really read the book, so
i might be doing an injustice here. haha.
2.I didn’t recognize ms. wenah nagales as tony’s manang, perhaps
it was mainly because of poor eyesight and the fact that I was
seated far from the site of the performance. Her flamenco singer role was a welcome breather though, the play was rather stressful to watch with all the intellectualizations and articulations of identity, signification, power, local culture, tradition, and all those other big and loaded terms. It also gives a tinge of magical realism. somehow, the warmth generated by her flamenco role provided balance for too much reason (intellect) with an approriated and romanticized language. the Needless to say, i loved it. =)
3.Yes, it was a little off also that kalila’s Carmen got stuck
dead center almost all throughout the play. But, it was in a way,
useful in establishing the point of view of the narrative, relegating the construction of the grand narrative to the audience, which further the idea that Carmen’s point of view is fragmentary reflecting her lunacy, in the same manner that the time frame of the performance flowed fluidly from
past/present and vice versa.i personally like the parts when she
talks to tony samson as tony reenacts parcels of his life. very post modern in temperament and treatment, the play dissolves the challenges and issues of boundaries, in the spatio-temporal sense.
4.The set was commendable. I like the juxtaposition of the
coldness of steel and the play of geometrics have created both site for location (anchorage to/of) and dislocation symbolic of the inner turmoil of asserting (shifting and rupturing) identities and subsequent dissolution/s.



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