Monday, February 25, 2013

The 4-Show Oscars Weekend

What a weekend. Four-day weekend! And the four shows: "Ibalong" by Tanghalang Pilipino at the CCP Little Theater, "Collection" by Dulaang UP at Diliman's Guerrero Theater, "Spring Awakening" by Blue Repertory at the Ateneo Rizal Theater, and "They're Playing Our Song" by 9 Works at the RCBC. The best of them, the one I'd suggest to anyone who'd ask if they could only watch one, is - by a mile - "Collection," this explosive masterpiece by Floy Quintos. Runner-up would be "They're Playing Our Song." All four shows, by the way, will be closed in a week.

Today is a historic day. It's my first time to watch the entire Oscars telecast on the day itself and on television. Thanks, no less, to the people behind EDSA I - and even more so to those in charge of cancellation of classes. 

Seth MacFarlane was such a polarizing host. I loved him and want him back next year. The jokes were plain nasty, some of them shocking - and the way he gracefully jabbed at Hollywood's oh-so-pretentious butt was top class. "We Saw Your Boobs" should become a classic. Loved the reactions of Naomi Watts and Charlize Theron. Hello, Kate Winslet. 

Other insane bits: Ted, his Jewish Hollywood beliefs, and the orgy at Jack Nicholson's; "The Sound of Music" joke; Meryl Streep's introduction, for, as said in Twitter, "Meryl Streep does not open envelopes; envelopes open for Meryl Streep"; "It's like church in here, only with more people praying"; Denzel in the Nutty Professor. Et Cetera. And may I just say, Daniel Day-Lewis gives the classiest, most entertaining, well-constructed speeches; he makes every other actor look illiterate - and oops, he's British.

WTF award of the night goes to "Brave" winning over "Wreck-It Ralph" in the Best Animated Feature category. Weirdest moment of the night goes to the Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy introduction - not even awkward, or awkward funny, but just plain weird. 

Next up: Oscarthon Year 3, Summer of 2013. As of now, one of the Oscar winners in the acting category is also our pick, while our choice for best film is not among the Best Picture nominees.

UP Medicine 2016 at Ateneo BlueRep's "Spring Awakening." (Photo by Jenn Gargar).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Like Crazy

I didn't go to class today. This module doesn't take attendance anyway, so why go to school and risk falling asleep to the lullaby of boring, unenthusiastic lecturers when you can stay at home and study away? 

Our guy classmate who's in charge of the Valentine's surprise for all the girls in class asked me if I could write a poem to put on a bookmark the boys would be giving them ladies. Nope, came up with nothing exceptionally good for the season, that's what I told him last night. In truth, my mind just wasn't in the mood to write. Heck, I don't celebrate Valentine's, so why should my writing self? There's nothing I find crazier during the month of February than all the lovers in the world converging into one massive ball of cheese and goo. For the record, I think Valentine's is such an overrated day, and that if you truly were a creative soul, you'd surprise that special person the next day instead. Never be afraid to be different. My classmate Madison once suggested, as a Valentine's surprise, "kidnapping" the girl and taking her to an "abandoned" room where the boy would be waiting with all the doves and pigeons in the world. Taddah!

I think a lot of people nowadays, particularly in med school, are afraid to be different. In med school, they try to destroy you as much as possible - suck out all the creativity, color, and character in you until what's left is a machine that's supposed to be equipped with higher levels of empathy and sympathy. Most people in med school think art has no place in the world, that science is the only worthy way to go. I see them everyday, with their notebooks and transcriptions and their stethoscopes, acting all professional and sane.

Movie suggestions for lovers out there: Like Crazy (2011), Closer (2004), and Blue Valentine (2010). I give you a week, and thereafter, if the two of you are still alright, then you're one step closer to being meant for each other.    

That's my mom crossing the famed bamboo hanging bridges in Bohol. Very hard to believe she did that, but photo speaks for itself. May 2012.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bacopa, Boeing Boeing, and ESU

Outstanding news from the Everglades! My poem, "Forgetfulness: A Series," has been accepted for publication in the 2013 Bacopa Literary Review. It's a literary journal by the Writers Alliance of Gainsville, based in Gainsville, Florida. They publish only one issue per year (last year's featured 43 writers), so I guess that must count for something. Ah, how it is to have one's work displayed side by side these First World names #OA. The journal will be out in April-May, so I'll make a post for the poem by then.  

*     *     *     *     *

Saturday night, the theater club watched Repertory Philippines' production of the Tony Award-winning comedy "Boeing Boeing." When a show is perfect to near-perfect, I don't find the need to write a proper review of it anymore (unless on 'official duties'); a rambling in this blog would suffice. The case with Atlantis' "Avenue Q" and "Next to Normal," and Rep's "Jekyll and Hyde." It has to be said: When it comes to quality, you are more or less assured of a fine show with Rep.

Topper Fabregas (Robert) has to be the best thing in this show. His comic timing and skill for playing awkwardly funny is the reason to watch. Also, the stewardesses' nicely restrained accents. Also, David Bianco (Bernard) finally back onstage after a stellar turn in "Next Fall" a year ago. Also, Carla Dunareanu going wild as Gretchen the German. Also, Baby Barredo in the flesh - first time to see her onstage; this is a very calculated performance with "veteran" written all over it. Also, that scene where Gloria (played by Jennifer Bianco), in her night robe, sneak-flashes Robert. Giannina Ocampo, who plays the unbending Italian Gabriella, is actually our classmate's sister. Hooray for the six degrees of separation.

"It's not impossible." 

*     *     *     *     *

Oscarthon 2013 update: Will Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master top this year's list?

*     *     *     *     *

It has been set: I won't be going to London this summer. 

The 2013 ESU-International Public Speaking Competition Search for the Philippine Representative to London in May was held last Saturday at the UP School of Economics. I finished second. It was a damn good fight, and the most thrilling public speaking competition I've ever had. John Lenard Robles (BS BAA, UP Diliman) won first place, and I wish him the very best in London. 

Someone remarked, when the finals were over and the judges were still deliberating, that I was quite zen and calm about everything. I guess that's an art you learn in med school, maybe? 

My speech and more about the competition in the next post.

The six grand finalists of this year's ESU-Philippines competition. Photo by Sir Wendell Capili (taken from his Facebook page).

Saturday, February 2, 2013

PDI Review: 'Katy' by Spotlight Artists Centre

My review of the 2013 revival of the Filipino musical "Katy" is in the theater section of today's Philippine Daily Inquirer! Once again, my alter-ego Vincent got the better of me. Ugh. The online version here.

*     *     *     *     *

'Katy' - from first note to last, an actor's show

Spotlight Artists Centre’s revival of “Katy,” which closed last Sunday after a 12-show run at the CCP Little Theatre, was not without its flaws.

Sure, this brainchild of Joey Reyes (book and lyrics) and Ryan Cayabyab (music) – an attempt to chart the life and times of Katy dela Cruz, so-called queen of Filipino jazz – still proved a musically relevant piece bursting with boundless creativity. What it suffered from was Nestor Torre’s puzzling direction.

The second act, in particular, felt quaintly fragmented; blackout after blackout made the entire thing seem a disjoint constellation of memories, in contrast to the previous act’s more cohesive storytelling. One moment, it’s World War II, the villagers expressing their anguish through the rousing “Luha sa Kinalimutang Lupa”; the next, Katy’s already in California, fatherless and a widow. 

Scenes ended abruptly, would-be emotional high points cut short, and more than once, the audience was left in the dark for far too long as the transitions trudged along.   

Magnanimous cast

Which begged the question: Why go?

If only to witness the modest theatre almost explode with the sheer amount of theatrical talent propelling this production skywards. In its quest to humanize its title character through nearly three hours of song and dance across decades, “Katy” triumphed with a magnanimous cast destined to go down as one of the year’s finest ensembles.    

At the forefront was Isay Alvarez, who originated the part of bar girl Gigi in “Miss Saigon” in London. Here, as the adult Katy who appears only in the prologue and second act, she was a luminous presence to behold. She growled her way through the songs, as her character would imaginably once would, and inhabited the role with a silent sorrow and ever-growing wisdom in her eyes. If this was the real Katy, no one could possibly tell, but Alvarez gave us a starkly layered depiction.

Meanwhile, teenage Katy was palpably portrayed by Aicelle Santos, reportedly one of the final seven women in the “Miss Saigon” auditions last November 2012. Consider this now her breakout performance – with an explosive rendition of “Balut,” and displaying a flair for comedy in the farcical “Bituing Tahimik.” 

The rest of the cast relished their roles with as much theatrical joy, best illustrated by the trio of Tricia Amper-Jimenez, Celine Fabie, and CJ Mangahis (as full-volume Mary Walter), Katy’s fellow showgirls and requisite support throughout the musical.

Visceral heartbreak

Tirso Cruz III, nowadays a staple patriarch figure onscreen, played Katy’s father with sagely, overbearing watchfulness. He also sang “Tingnan Mo nga Naman,” a father once more getting through his daughter after years of muddle, and the heartbreak was visceral.

Gian Magdangal – man of the hour in Act I, tired and pot-bellied in Act II – made for a surprisingly compelling Peping, Katy’s philandering husband. Dulce, that booming voice that calls to mind Broadway’s Patti LuPone, successfully painted a sympathetic interior to faded star Olivia.

We can go on extolling the virtues of this wondrous set of performers, and it won’t be wrong. “Katy” was truly an actor’s show.  

But there was a moment in Act I when all else must be forgotten, and all eyes focused only upfront. The stage bare, the spotlights focused on two women – Dulce and Santos, vanguards of two generations of Filipino singers. Without a hint of fanfare or eye-popping background, they launched into a duet of “Minsan ang Minahal ay Ako.”

For a production bereft of scenery and props, for a show that could get quite loud and lasciviously funny, these four minutes of soaring voices, beautiful lyrics, and sheer musicality – undeniably this production’s zenith – were the ultimate reason to buy a ticket. This was a sold-out run, of course.

Katy will have a rerun on July 25 to August 4 at the Meralco Theater.

*     *     *     *     *

Video of the week #1: Lea Salonga sings "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables."

Video of the week #2: Lea Salonga sings "Higher" from Allegiance, a new musical.