Monday, July 14, 2008

Two reviews and one point of view

Walter Ang reviews the Virgin Labfest in today's Inquirer. A digest:

Layeta Bucoy's Las Mentiras de Gloria had tight dialogue, intrinsic rhythm and Tuxqs Rutaquio’s sensitive direction, but did have a stray branch that needed clipping in the sorely miscast Bart Guingona as a working-class grunt.

Njel de Mesa’s use of glow-in-the-dark costumes, props and puppets as a device to push his adaptation of Terangati (under his own direction) worked well, but the material suffered an overly long overture and music that sounded too adult and heavy for a children’s musical.

Koh Jun Eiow’s Ang Dalawa Niyang Libing, translated by Terrence Co and directed by Leo Rialp, was an engaging clash of culture and religion, but the story felt rushed for its one-hour running time and yearned to be threshed out into a two-act play.

Argel Tuazon’s adaptation of Bru-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, Bru-hi-hi-hi-hi-hi directed by Mayen Estañero, and Job Pagsibigan’s adaptation of Uuwi Na ang Nanay Kong si Darna, directed by Catherine Racsag, were a breath of fresh air and earnest energy.

Hase Hiroichi’s Amoy ng Langit provided a sweet, relaxed and genteel viewing experience with strong acting from its ensemble cast, while Rogelio Braga’s Ang Bayot, ang Meranao, at ang Habal-Habal sa Isang Nakababagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte, directed by Nick Olanka, offered sharp and witty dialogue in a tightly packed and slick conversation between actors Joey Paras and Arnold Reyes... Hilarious and never preachy, Ang Bayot deserves a run that should be as long as, or longer than, its title.

In Floy Quintos’ Ang Kalungkutan ng Mga Reyna, Sharmaine Buencamino was brilliant as Quintos’ beautifully written character Queen Yolanda. Surreal, funny and full-to-the-bite with strong writing and strong acting, this production was hands down the best of the bunch.

Allan Lopez’s Masaganang Ekonomiya directed by Victor Villareal was less performance than it was performance art with dialogue, as the production challenged notions of what theater should or could be. Unapologetic in its strangeness and definitely thought-provoking, it was either the Labfest’s worst production, or its best.

The complete article here.

Blogger and theatergoer Alvin offers his own trenchant take here, including a hilarious--and mostly on the money--“awards” roster:

BEST ACTORS: Joey Paras and Arnold Reyes, in Rogelio Braga's Ang Bayot, Ang Meranao, at ang Habal-Habal sa Isang Nakakabagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte (tie). (Runners-up: Jonathan Tadioan, in Tim Dacanay's Pamantasang Hirang and Tuxqs Rutaquio, in Floy Quintos's Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna.)

BEST ACTRESS: Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, in Floy Quintos's Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna. (Runner-up: May Bayot for Layeta Bucoy's Las Mentiras de Gloria.)

BEST CAST: The cast of Carlo Garcia's Ang Mga Halimaw: JK Anicoche, Amihan Ruiz, Kristine Balmes, Alvin Obillo, Nar Cabico, Isab Martinez, and Oscar Garcia.

BEST EYE CANDY: Male: Diogenes Alejandro, in George Vail Kabristante's Ang Kuwento ng Menginga ng New York City na Kamukha ng Bee-stung Lips in Julia Roberts. (Runner-up: Joselito Riguerra, in George Vail Kabristante's Ang Kuwento ng Menginga ng New York City na Kamukha ng Bee-stung Lips in Julia Roberts.). Female: Mica Froilan, in Hase Hiroichi's Amoy ng Langit. (Runner-up: Tara Cabaero, in Hase Hiroichi's Amoy ng Langit.)

BEST PROP: The crown in Floy Quintos's Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna. (Runner-up: the wooden paddle in Tim Dacanay's Pamantasang Hirang.)

BEST REPRESENTATION OF A BODY PART: Gem Padilla, as the Menginga in George Vail Kabristante's Ang Kuwento ng Menginga ng New York City na Kamukha ng Bee-stung Lips in Julia Roberts. (Runner-up: Vera's stiff cock, in Allan Lopez's Masaganang Ekonomiya.)

BEST USE OF MUSIC: Njel de Mesa, for his musical score for Terangati. (Runner-up: Floy Quintos, for his use of Judy Garland's Somewhere Over the Rainbow in his Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna.)

BEST DIRECTOR: Floy Quintos, for his Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna. (Runner-up: Njel de Mesa, for Terangati.)

BEST PLAY: Floy Quintos's Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna. (Runner-up: Layeta Bucoy's Las Mentiras de Gloria.)

Plus, a special award from a well-known food company:

THE PUREFOODS FIESTA HAM AWARD FOR ACTING: Tommy Abuel, in F. Sionil José's Dong-Ao. (Runner-up: Charissa Litton, in Debbie Ann L. Tan's Mga Babaeng Toobright.)

The complete post here.

Finally, Ma-yi Theater Company artistic director Ralph Pena, who flew in from New York to watch the Labfest and direct a reading of excerpts from the Ma-yi drama anthology Savage Stage, appraises the festival here, with a disclaimer--it's “not a review of the Virgin Labfest but personal impressions gathered from seven days of immersive play watching.” Nonetheless, a wealth of acute observations:

It can’t be overstated: The Virgin Labfest is easily one of the most compelling developments in Philippine Theater. Its focus on the playwright’s process and the resulting generation of new works for the stage carry the kind of energetic chutzpah needed to fuel a new, diversified movement in contemporary theater making. It’s exactly the right prescription that can push Philippine Theater to exciting, uncharted territories.

There’s a “fly by the seat of your pants” element to the Labfest that isn’t entirely a bad proposition. Festivals of this kind are often forced to reconcile its ambitions with lack of time and money. Integral to the process is challenging artists to rise above economic constraints to figure out how to best realize their vision with limited resources--a reality they are likely to face for much of their careers in the theater. And so compromises are struck, rehearsal schedules are truncated, and production elements are kept to their bare essentials. These are the rules of the game.

I have my favorites--those plays that successfully tackled their subjects with a combination of fresh insight, and judicious theatrical flair. I liked plays that didn’t shy away from exploring relationships in surprising ways, like Layeta Bucoy’s Ellas Inocentes, with its economical use of fractured, elliptical text to map the psychological minefield of child abuse. I was riveted by plays that repackaged larger social and political themes into personalized stories of human interaction: F. Sionil Jose’s and Rody Vera's Dong-Ao, Rogelio Braga’s Ang Bayot, Ang Meranao, at ang Habal Habal sa isang Nakababagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte, and Floy Quintos’ Ang Kalungkutan ng Mga Reyna. I was struck by the brittle lyricism of Yoji Sakate’s riff on Three Sisters. I connected to these plays for different reasons--but the one thing they had in common was how they successfully animated their texts without burying the playwright’s voice under layers of theatrical contrivances. The Labfest is about the writers. I want to experience their words, and these plays allowed me to that.

I also have to say something about the remarkable performances I saw--actors who transported me with emotional truth, trenchant humor, and in some cases, otherworldly power. These are actors that compelled me to pay attention and surrender myself fully to their biddings: Mads Nicolas, Joey Paras, Arnold Reyes, Shamaine Buencamino, Nar Cabico, Tuxqs Rutaquio, Mailes Kanapi, Bembol Roco, Bong Cabrera, and Nicco Manalo.

There are many other interesting plays in the Labfest that hold great promise, but which did not yet fully cradle my imagination, [but] okey lahat 'yan. Not every work in a new play festival can fully hint at its potential. What’s important is that first steps are taken, and the learning process begun. We can’t lose sight of the goal here--these plays are meant to move on to their next developmental phase.

Which brings me to the most important proposal of the Labfest--a challenge to theaters around the country: PRODUCE THE PLAYS.

Why that challenge? Read the complete post here.


royco said...

gibbs, you know that i love theater. i am so glad to read this post and the re-awakening the Filipino ardent fervor to nurture and develop the trajectory of play writing and producing.

i am presently reading a fantastic book by James Martin, SJ [of course, a Jesuit! :-)] whose title is "A Jesuit OFF BROADWAY." Center Stage with Jesus, Judas, and Life's Big Questions. What happens when theater and theology share the stage? A marvelous book journaling Martin's stint in the production of "The Last Days of Judas Escariot" with the LABirynth Theater Company in New York.

This book is a must in your field of interest. It may also re-enkindle and deepen the fire of your love for and faith in God :-). If unavailable there, I bring you the book when we see each other in October. Yes, this October. So pencil me in your most hectic schedule rubbing elbows with the most prized stars in Manila. Ingat.

gibbs cadiz said...

FR. ROY, do bring me a copy this october. i'd love to read what a jesuit has to say about a very, uhm, secular trade, haha. yey, see ya in a few months, madami tayo pupuntahan at panonoorin! :)

beektur said...

clap! clap! clap! buti pa sa pinas maraming bagong development. sa-broadway? let's see: movie-to-stage marketing ploys (xanadu, legally blonde, billy elliots, hairspray), campy revues (mama mia,jersey boys, young frankeinstein, spamalot), children's theater (poppins, disney eclats), revivals. hay.

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