I needn't have worried. Lalah, a Political Science graduate of De La Salle University who now works as a researcher in a food manufacturing company, looked prim but was game for the sometimes startling turns that indie theater could take. She had seen her fair share of local productions, and she had specifically asked for this segment of the Virgin Labfest, the very last set I was scheduled to watch with a blogger.
"Sanay na ako," she assured me, laughing. Her post about the three plays she saw illustrates not only her open attitude to risk-taking stories but also her interest in questions of politics, power and the nature of social transactions. Some highlights:
On Job Pagsibigan's "May Bumubulong:" The play touched on several issues, mostly on personal and social psychology vis-à-vis politics. This was reflected in Gerald’s search or creation of his identity. The whisper that kept on haunting him since his teenagers years was a metaphor for the repressed emotions and fear about life. Such was also apparent in the two brothers’ exploration of their body (masturbation and sexual encounters). Second, the play also touched on the issue of power conflict within the family. Alex’s decision to sell their house without consulting his adoptive younger brother reflected the kind of power that is apparent in a family (the dominance of the elders). But beyond that, the play also captured how this power can be abused – sexual abuse of Alex to Gerald. Lastly, the play was also effective in communicating how a personal power struggle and societal conflicts affect a person character and creation of identity.
On J. Dennis Teodosio's "Pobreng Alindahaw:" The play was a great allegory for man’s daily struggle. Who doesn’t encounter existentialist angst from time to time? We often find ourselves in despair of what our lives have become. “Pobreng Alindahaw” was a hilarious wake-up call for reviewing how we actually look at the worth of our existence. While others may appear to have overwhelming success and happiness (like Genaro’s perspective of a butterfly), there’s always a space for despair and even longing. There’s always a moment in our life that we feel insecure. It pictured that life is about acceptance, struggle, and dream. There’s nothing wrong in dreaming or wanting something grand for as long as we are aware and still appreciate our worth (just like Genaro’s realizations).
The earlier parts of the play were bit boring and trying-to-be hilarious though. Such feelings had probably something to do with the ZZZ ["Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah"] effect--it has set standards as to what is witty and funny. Luckily, in the middle of the play, actors were able to recover and commence a more lively, witty, and funny enough punch lines and acting. The use of live musical score added grace to the play. Generally, the essence and the moral of the story were effectively communicated.
On Rogelio Braga's "Sa Pagdating ng Barbaro:" "Liars go to hell." This may seem a cliché but it’s the reality reflected in the play. Not all we know and experience are 100-percent true. Some people are guilty of creating stories to enable them create their identity. Because of these lies, we are dumbfounded that we are living in hell. Another interesting thing about the play was its attempt to illustrate the cultural-religious conflict between Muslims and Christians. It has perfectly highlighted the current military conflict in Mindanao alongside the seeming immunity and apathy of the people.
(Read her complete entry here.)
I haven't told them yet, but Lalah and the other bloggers who had availed of the free tickets I offered in this site made my two-week Labfest-watching experience an eye-opener. Practically everyone in the group was young, keen on theater and could express him- or herself reasonably well. As a friend chirped after he read the first couple of reviews from them (here and here), "Quality naman ang mga napili mo!"
Which I had to correct--I didn't choose them, I hadn't met them before the Labfest. But they took their chances (as I did, since I'm not too good with small talk and it takes me a bit to warm up to strangers), and now I feel good about the whole experience.
That they turned out to be interesting people and eager companions to the theater was a joy. But that they chose to watch a bunch of untested, non-commercial original Filipino plays on an afternoon or evening when they could have been out malling or watching a Hollywood movie told me that there IS hope.
Build it, and they will come.