Friday, February 25, 2011

Being Jack

Roughly 24 hours ago, we took abreak from being pre-medical students facing ten more exams in the next four weeks to conjure an alternate universe not quite different from the one we're presently in. It was certainly liberating, and for most of us, it only served to tighten the bonds and further solidify the class spirit.

Mediscene, the annual one-act play competition of the UP College of Medicine, was supposed to be tonight. But since today's become a holiday (I'd be totally surprised if Ninoy Aquino III decided to live through today like it's any other day), the Culture committee of the college student council chose to have the event a day earlier. They were actually rather good at disseminating the information - because we found out about the move only last Monday, and through indirect sources to boot. If it's any consolation (?!), five days ago, we still hadn't gone through our script as an entire cast.

One of the perks of being an Intarmed student is that, as a class, you're somehow masters in the art of cramming. Heck, you can strangle exams and unparalleled expectations from teachers, and still assemble a production in less than a week. No one's saying the production will be flawless, because even Spider Man needs at least three months to sling through Broadway in previews.

We had mini-readings towards the end of last week, mini because we were never complete. Then, we finally had the first blocking of all nine scenes last Tuesday. We had a field trip on Wednesday to survey the UP community program in San Juan, Batangas (and also, to see the mangroves in Pinaglabanan and savor the sea and sand in Laiya) - meaning we couldn't rehearse at all. Then, yesterday, we had a final blocking, a technical rehearsal, and a run-through. It was show time.

If there's any descrption that I can think of for our story, it's this: WILD. I wasn't surprised when I first read the script; after all, the writers have some of the wildest, most colorful, and most sadistic imaginations in class. The play's entitled "Hippocritic Oath" with this premise: It is (at least) 2030, and a bunch of UPCM graduates are going through some really outrageous times. One of them decides to kill the others as a favor for the Philippines.

Opening scene: all nine main characters standing onstage in different poses before they break into speech and into reality one by one.

Francis has just been deported from China after failing to pay the rent and bills for three months, despite being a cardiologist (maybe the Chinese have developed super sturdy hearts). His shoulder angel and devil add color to his mental and emotional state. Robin, now a senator of the Philippines, is receiving nationwide attention for a very controversial bill and is pestered by the media about her past with the President, among other things, every time she emerges from the Senate. Jose works as part of a team of military doctors in Basilan, together with Sarah (the dumb blonde stereotype), Galileo (the amazona type), and Lea, who's near the saturation point. An ambush by the Abu Sayyaf results in Galileo's brainless death and Jose, in his extremely serious and workaholic state, killing the Abus.

At Galileo's funeral, Jose's blatantly honest eulogy gets him into a fight with Francis. Jack, the seventh classmate, then has an epiphany: His classmates have been rather useless to the Philippines - an irony considering that they once signed a return service agreement for the country after graduation. He then sets out to kill the 'useless' one by one, using a killing spray invented when they were still in school and now recently banned. He first kills Francis at the airport, just as the latter's waiting for his flight to New York. He then hunts down Sarah in the dead of night at the hospital and finishes her off too. Then, he guns down Robin as she is being mobbed by the media outside the Senate. The play ends with Jack in Lea's clinic, with the one person that he deems worthy enough to live. Lea's tired from everything that's happened, and Jack's still misguided.

The repo company representative in Francis's place. 

I played Jack, who's actually a leading role and a rather difficult character to create, and I also had a supporting performance as the representative of the repossession company who takes away Francis' things in China. What an unbelievably fun night, though I honestly feel that another go at it would result in better performances.

Here, now, is a list of bloopers (actors' names withheld) during the course of our play (this may be incomplete):

The Abu Sayyaf attack!

1. Francis didn't even get to finish his first line during his fight with Jose at the funeral. He started with "Ano ba, Jose, magpakita ka naman ng konting res-- (Hey Jose, show some res--)" before breaking into laughter (probably at the sight of his real-life roommate's unusually serious/angry face, or at the sheer absurdity of it all). The audience went wild.

2. In his China apartment, Francis has a telephone which the repo men also retrieve. Problem was, our props men forgot to set the telephone up onstage. Instead, the head of the repo company had to take the phone out with him from backstage and tell Francis that they're also taking 'his phone' away. Francis, sticking to his lines, said, "Wait, let me take this call." Oh, and we also forgot our prop telephone ring.

Francis with shoulder angel and devil.

3. The repo company employees double as imaginary acrobats who take out the bodies of Jack's victims. When Jack finished Francis off and turned for his exit, the first repo man made his entrance and cartwheeled straight onto Jack. Having barely recovered, he got hit by the second repo man as well.

4. Jose kills the Abu Sayyaf leader last. When Jose hurled the prop scalpel at the Abu, he died even though the scalpel visibly bounced off his chest.

5. The killing device is actually just a sprayer that once contained formalin that we used during cat dissection. When Jack killed Sarah, she died on cue, even though the sprayer got stuck and barely got her face wet with prop water.

The media in a frenzy over Robin.

6. Robin's death defied Physics. She died as rehearsed and the media men reacted as rehearsed. Then came the gun shot sound effect.

7. Jack and Lea, towards the end of the final scene, momentarily forgot their lines. They began doing the scene ad libitum. Jack said, "O ano (roughly intended as "So, what now?")", and Lea responded with the exact same line, both saying it in the way that actors on film do before they kiss or make out or confess their love for one another (cue romantic music). The audience went wild with the surprise, on-the-spot, and totally unintentional romantic angle that the actors never even thought could possibly exist as a subliminal message of the dialogue. The spirit of the rest of their scripted lines was extremely altered.

Jack in Lea's office. The piano's a permanent fixture of the stage, so we made it part of the clinic.

When Francis messed up his line and the audience was going wild during Galileo's funeral, my brother thought (and still thinks) I was being out of character (when Jack was supposed to be all mockingly sad and visibly cynical-bordering-on-glad at the riot that was ensuing, and was supposed to break the fourth wall). Oh, and he also says I had lots of Jarby faces on last night. That's one possible problem with extreme familiarity: Even in make-believe, you see a person only as you see him in reality, including real-life expressions and gestures and manners of speech. He still has lots of comments regarding our play but probably needs a little more prodding.

We won only one award, for Jer's supporting performance as the shoulder devil; the rest were once again swept by Class of 2014. We didn't have a proper set design, the lights and sounds were rushed, and we basically had no hair and makeup to qualify us for those awards. But it didn't matter (at least, not to me). It was really, really fun, and the feeling was akin to winning. For another night (and these nights are extremely rare), we weren't simply the nerds of Intarmed.

The cast of Hippocritic Oath with our director-scriptwriter missing from the frame.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. :) I must say, the concept is very...original. Good job. :)