Monday, March 24, 2014

Ten Things About Internal Medicine

The Year Level 5: ICC Year blog posts - stories and anecdotes, patient encounters and hospital drama, and the many colors of UP med school from the perspective of a third year. Here's the fifteenth entry, under our three-week rotation in the Department of Medicine.

1. Preceptorials took up the bulk of this rotation. The most memorable session involved Dr. A, one of the country's gods of nephrology, who is also inseparable from his ever reliable can of Coke, and our octogenarian patient from Negros with renal hypertensive disease. The following conversation (abridged) was the highlight of said session:

Dr. A: When did your BP [blood pressure] start to go up?
Patient: It was 200/100... 200/80...
Dr. A: Yes, so what was your BP in 1990? 1994?
Patient: It was... yes, it was high in 1980, 1990...
Dr. A: [shifting to Hiligaynon] Lilinti-an! Ano ang BP mo sang 1990?!

2. Every year, the last block to rotate in the department gets to do the student grand rounds, where third years study and present a case all by themselves, in addition to organizing the entire event - from invites to resource speakers to microphone men. The downside is that the entire three weeks are basically devoted to preparing for this... thing, which means time that should normally be used for reading and studying is instead sacrificed to make scripts and Powerpoints. (There is no upside.)

3. Some generator or electrical thing or whatever blew up or gave out, leaving the OPD with insufficient power to sustain the clinics' air-conditioners. This started on our first day at the clinics and outlasted the duration of our stay.

4. UP Meridian had its Neuro OSCE review and induction dinner on the second-to-the-last day of the rotation. So many new kids in town to promote Chinese Asian culture!

5. An epic "Wicked" adventure: The last Friday of February, Sister C and I went to Diamond Hotel to stalk the cast of the musical, because Sister C is such a huge fan girl, and "For Good" is the anthem of her life. We hung out at the lobby, where we met all of them (and where Sister C had fangirl photos and got her programme signed) except for The Wizard, Madame Morrible, and Glinda. So, for the sake of Suzie Mathers (word has it that she's one stealthy serpent), we ended up in line at the CCP stage door after that evening's performance. There was also a sunset walk along Baywalk, but I can't seem to remember much of it.

Sitting in front of the elevators was quite the strategy.

6. I ended up seeing majority of the shows for the first quarter of the year during the weekends of this rotation. Repertory Philippines' "August: Osage County," Ateneo Blue Repertory's "Toilet the Musical," and Red Turnip Theater's "Cock" were the ones I reviewed for the Inquirer. Photo #1: The day I first watched "August," Caucasian family amusing themselves over Greenbelt fish. Photo #2: Curtain call during the final show of "August," because brother wanted to watch (because I made him watch the movie, and he adored it).

7. "Mga Ama, Mga Anak" by Tanghalang Pilipino at the CCP. It's a Filipino translation by Virgilio Almario and Pete Lacaba of the Nick Joaquin play. Terrible script - so many cringe-worthy moments - or as Cora Llamas stated in her review, excruciatingly obvious writing. However, terrific performances from the cast, especially Celeste Legaspi as the modern wife and Cris Villonco as the resident pokpok.

8. "Rak of Aegis" by PETA featured the songs of, well, Aegis. This was a totally fun musical (the first act could stand on its own, seamless as it is), but the last quarter weighed everything down. The resolution needs to be rewritten because there is no other way to put it except to say that it's a cesspool of confusion. But, "Sinta" and the laugh-out-loud, ingenious use of bubbles! Also, Jerald Napoles and Ron Alfonso - the macho-funny and the bakla-funny, respectively - are both destined to go down as two of year's best comedy performances.

9. "Full Gallop" - a one-woman show about former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, here played by the iconic Cherie Gil. In the play, Vreeland is fresh from her European exile following her savage termination from the magazine and preparing to host a dinner party that seems headed for disaster. This one's confusifying: Gil was superb, sure, but at times, it felt as though she were only playing herself. It's indisputable, however, that the food during the opening night gala was just fabulous.

10. "Ang Nawalang Kapatid" by Dulaang UP is a musical version of the Mahabharata, condensed and translated into a two-hour musical. This spectacular show with an extraordinarily agile and hard-working all-student cast is, by far, the best production of the year. Which is to say, watch it during the rerun in July - if you can get a ticket! Last photo not-so-clearly shows the swarm of squealing high school/college girls mobbing Ross Pesigan, who's one of five actors to go au naturel in the ending. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ten Things About Surgery

The Year Level 5: ICC Year blog posts - stories and anecdotes, patient encounters and hospital drama, and the many colors of UP med school from the perspective of a third year. Here's the fourteenth entry, under our three-week rotation in the Department of Surgery.

But first, an explanation. As of this writing, we're halfway through the first week of Community Medicine - our block's last rotation - and have seven normal days of LU5 left. Then, it's the final exams, the comprehensive exam, and grand OSCE (the practicals) before the 4-month vacation begins. I meant to make this post right after the end of rotation, but instead found myself writing theater reviews for three consecutive weeks (I'm not complaining). So here's to memory!

1. The pata party. One of the highlights of this rotation was the suturing practice session. Our models were pork legs. Later, we had the legs cooked - fried to oily perfection - for one helluva atherosclerotic party.

2. This April, we Intarmed kids will be receiving our undergraduate degrees - BS Basic Medical Sciences - which is really another way of saying we now only have two years between us and that M.D. We had our graduation photo shoot one Saturday, and that thing on the lower left corner is my technologically clueless finger.

3. At the Surgery Minor OR, we were allowed to do wound closures on our own. My first (and only) one didn't look so pretty, though, which shouldn't really decrease my patient's aesthetic value as long as he keeps his shirt on and his lower back covered. Here's T and P, who celebrated their 2nd wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day.

4. It was during this rotation that the sister came to Manila to watch "Wicked" with her two brothers. And since she's an artsy little cat, I brought her to the National Museum. Carlos "Botong" Francisco's five-mural series depicting the history of medicine in the country brings back (dreary) memories of Humanities II and how we had to write a paper on those paintings. 

5. "Wicked" was the first time the three of us siblings watched a play together on our own. Since sister dear is a shy one and a huge fan of the musical (even though she doesn't know the lyrics to "No Good Deed," which makes her being a fan questionable), we headed over to the stage door after the show. Actually, we ran to the stage door right after the curtain fell, just as the rest of the audience were still recovering from the spectaculotion.

6. The day after we saw "Wicked," I ran into Steve Danielsen (Fiyero) and Emily Cascarino (Nessarose) in National Bookstore, Robinsons Ermita. (Well actually, I kind of stalked them for a while, just walking behind them to see where they'd go, and debating with myself over whether or not to approach them and prove I'm a "Wicked" fanboy.)  

7. Gela and I had this really creepy septuagenarian patient with a popliteal cyst at the OPD. While waiting for the resident monitor, we asked her, "Ma'am, if you can share with us one life lesson, what would it be?" She said, "Always seek the Lord." That wasn't the end of it; she rambled on about how she's seen apparitions of the cross and all that, and how Filipinos are really the chosen people of God. (Those are Amorosolos in the picture.)


8. Surgery is a menial rotation. It's like brushing sand on cement walls, or picking ferns in the forest, or painting fences in the farm, milking cows and growing mushrooms, feeding birds in the park, sharpening pencils, selling paper, ironing gloves and worn-out denims, mopping an entire house in a span of thirty minutes. So we played Spot the Teddy a lot!

9. Mediscene, the annual play competition of the College of Medicine, marked the last day of Surgery. Our class ended up not joining (here's an epic tale of lies, betrayal, and stupidity). But anyway, this was the second consecutive year where entries had to be musicals - an idea I strongly despise. Cora Llamas, Walter Ang, and his bestie Ronald Elepano were the judges (I invited them). The freshmen (Class of 2018) had an orchestra that produced elegant, enchanting music, meaning the others didn't really stand a chance as far as wow factor was concerned. Beat that. (The photo is of 2019, or the second year Intarmed kids.)

10. Let me immortalize the issue with the exam. We had two exams that were absolutely disconnected from the rotation. But here's what happened with one of the previous blocks: During their first exam, the resident monitor allowed them to look the answers up in the textbook. Said monitor even allowed them to take the exam home. Know that Surgery never changed their questions, until this happened, when some of them got 99%. The most scandalous, most disgusting part of the issue had nothing to do with our exam being totally new; it's that people who knew about it actually tried to sugarcoat, bury, repress the issue. It was never discussed openly; it was never put out there for everyone to know; and nobody - NOBODY - took full responsibility for it. When I found out about it, a week after our rotation had ended, I lost my faith in certain people. And you wonder why this country is the way it is? Excuse me while I barf - again.

Caucasian family watching fish. Greenbelt, Makati City.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

PDI Review: 'Cock' by Red Turnip Theater

My review of Red Turnip Theater's "Cock" - Red Turnip is not a guy - is in today's Inquirer - here. This must-see production runs until April 6 at Whitespace, Chino Roces Ave. Ext., Makati City. (It's right across Mead Johnson Nutritionals.) Get your tickets at TicketWorld now!

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'Cock' teases with pulsing energy

A mere kilometer from the Magallanes MRT station, in a nondescript building called Whitespace, a play of diminutive scale rages with astonishing explosive power, one that ravages the robust human facade and inflicts damaging blow after blow upon the fragile emotional soul.

This tempestuous play is "Cock," by the British playwright Mike Bartlett, and it made landfall March 7 as the fledgling company Red Turnip Theater's second production.

Yet, to describe this "Cock" as a sort of storm might be misleading for the unsuspecting audience member, who'd enter the venue expecting to see a cast of thousands and a set of wicked proportions (pun intended).

There is nothing in this theater-in-the-round that hints at physical spectacle. An overtly economical imitation of a chandelier hangs above a circular red carpet, which is flanked by low wooden barriers segregating it from the four sections of Monoblocs.

Power struggle

Denis Lagdameo's set is obviously intended to be a cockpit, and unless one is a closet gambler or patron of the Pinoy pastime, the prospect of watching squabbling roosters hardly makes for an exciting thought.

Who are we fooling? "Cock" is about a different kind of power struggle: three people fighting to possess one man's presumably priceless penis. Pardon the bluntness, but sugarcoating simply won't do in this age of Miley Cyrus and sex-scandal celebrities.

A less risque synopsis would go something like this: Gay man breaks up with his boyfriend, has sex and falls in love with a woman, then finds himself in the confusing middle, as both lovers try to win him over once and for all.

It is temptingly easy to dismiss "Cock" as just another gay play. (It is, in fact, the first in a string of brand-new theater productions this year to feature the homosexual lead - to name two others, Resorts World's "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert" and 9 Works Theatrical's "La Cage Aux Folles").

That, however, would be a short-sighted way of viewing this play, which is so much more than just the fleeting dalliances of the modern young gay man. True, the enduring questions about homosexuality are speckled throughout the show - one of the characters asks, in Mendelian fashion, "Where is the gene?" - but they're totally beside the point.

The single, most fitting term that encapsulates all of "Cock" appears to be "identity" - and it's not just the kind that many an out-and-proud man grappled with back in the closet.

Beating heart

The beating heart of "Cock" is John, a despicable creature who appears to be no more than just a wiry human reservoir of indecision.

At the start, he and his boyfriend are already teetering on the brink of breakup; yet for the rest of the show, he will be maddeningly incapable of choosing between two people, what he wants out of a relationship, what he wants from love - basically the stuff that epic romances are made of. It is John's perpetual state of vacillation that truly informs this play.

There are three supporting characters: M is John's on-and-off boyfriend ("You're like a brother," John tells him); W is the not-so-lucky girl who scores; and F is M's father, who appears only in the play's final 30 minutes.

That they have single-letter names but are infinitely more resolute in their choices (in everything, really) only highlights the irony that John, as the lone character with a proper name, is the one with a murky interior and a perpetually unmade mind.

And they feed on his lack of definition. M treats John like a child, stunting his growth instead of nurturing him. F, as loving and accepting a father-of-the-boyfriend as he is, sees it fit to meddle with the messy affairs of others and manipulate his son's relationship.

Only W is likable enough, but her being the gentlest, most generous spirit in the room ("a female, a chick, cow, bitch," as M describes her) probably clouds judgment.


As far as subject matter is concerned, there really isn't anything extraordinary with Bartlett's work. Shades of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" are splattered all over it.

The key lies in the presentation, and director Rem Zamora's technique is what makes Red Turnip's "Cock" pulsate with such volatile energy. (See how the title literally spawns a myriad of puns.)

The pacing never misses a beat, the tension always kept at a maximum. And all four performers throw Bartlett's naturalistic lines across the room like volleys of gunfire.

It's a royal battle that actually forces the audience to choose sides from the outset: The four seating sections are named after the characters. Scenes are divided by the sound of a bell, evoking a boxing arena - and by the time this play reaches its culminating dinner scene, it has morphed into one hell of a bloody fight.

Funniest lines

Red Turnip's "Cock" features what should go down as the year's fiercest quartet of actors. Topper Fabregas is an extremely infuriating John, whiny and needy and so unsure. Niccolo Manahan revels in the sheer bitchiness of M, who gets to speak both the funniest and cruelest lines.

Audie Gemora is a stern, almost reverential figure as F, until he appoints himself the middle man of the love triangle. And Jenny Jamora is especially ravishing as W, imbuing the character with equal measures of sweetness and graceful ferocity.

In this stripped-down environment, the play becomes the actors - the sharp line deliveries, the evocative use of body language, the palpable and believable emotions - as they carry the entire weight of Bartlett's text.

That is how they become the raging storm at the heart of this little play. Zamora and his actors have virtually made it impossible for the audience to not get carried away by the sheer passionate force of their production.

There is, of course, the requisite sex scene. How it is done is also reason to see this production; copulation on stage has never been this classier - or more erotic.

In the end, Red Turnip's "Cock" is really 90 minutes of hyper-articulate actors attempting to tear each other apart with just the deathly use of eloquent language. In the face of an entertainment scene saturated with musical extravaganzas, crowd-pleasing rom-coms, and exorbitantly priced concerts, this is an offer to delicious - and too rare - to be refused.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

PDI Review: 'Toilet: The Musical' by Ateneo Blue Repertory

My post-run review of the world premiere - because it really is - of "Toilet: The Musical," which ran February 12 - March 1 at the Ateneo de Manila University, is in today's Inquirer - here.

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'Toilet: The Musical'--far from perfect, but Ejay Yatco's music shines

The experience of watching Ateneo Blue Repertory's "Toilet: The Musical" (which concluded March 1 after a three-week run) approximated that of sitting in the middle of a Bornean rainforest, at three in the afternoon in May, to see some cool animals appear.

The university's Gonzaga Exhibit Hall, which lacks air-conditioning and whose ubiquity of windows is a light designer's nightmare, should never ever be used as a venue for any stage production. The final matinee performance of "Toilet" was a standing-room-only affair, and for more than two hours, the audience busily brandished makeshift fans to ward off the unbearable heat that plagued that sauna of a "theater."

The stage design was also problematic: Was there really the need to extend the right and left sides of the stage in the form of wings, such that those seated on the first two rows had to uncomfortably turn sideways whenever something was happening up there?

What this arrangement achieved was the periodic disruption of the show's momentum, when focus could have easily been sustained by utilizing just the central performance space.

Spatial and environmental issues aside, there's much to laud in "Toilet: The Musical." Ejay Yatco's original English-language work brimmed with promise despite a rather flawed premiere by BlueRep.

Stereotypical characters

Certainly this musical broke no new ground with its story. It's set in an unspecified high school (could be any famous Manila private school teeming with kids of the well-to-do, English-spouting kind) and concerned eight main stereotypical characters: the troubled artist, the slut, the religious fanatic, the jock with a brain - you get the drift.

The primary weakness of the musical's book (by Bym Buhain and Miyo Sta. Maria) was ironically its desire to lend every one of its characters equal treatment. The upside was that "Toilet" wasn't just another superficial, Disney-fied sing-along like "High School Musical."

The downside? For a rather simple premise, there were too many stories - eight main characters! - competing for the viewer's attention.

In keeping with the idea that "we are all our real selves in the toilet," the school janitor (played by Darrell Uy) also doubled as the omniscient narrator - an annoying role that was essentially filler and could have been done away with.

There's also the stock closeted gay relationship - too sleazily written to even be involving - between the teacher and the sensitive yearbook editor who commits suicide at the end of the show (not a spoiler, promise!).

It begged the question: Was this "Bare 2.0"? (Well, the central homosexual romance in "Bare" was quite poignant and perceptive, to begin with.)

A life of its own
The music of "Toilet," on the other hand, took on a life of its own: It was the real star of the show. Count them - 22 original songs, both music and lyrics single-handedly crafted by Yatco.

The songs ran an impressive gamut of styles. But the fact that they refused to break the integrity of the storytelling and, more importantly, became full-on participants in the projection of emotions for every scene, was Yatco's biggest success here.

"Just Wait Awhile" deftly illustrated the unspoken adolescent agony over identity, and opened the show by establishing a unifying milieu for its characters: All of them are struggling to present a nice face to the world, to "just hold it in, put on a smile," and put up with the pressures of school and home.

"Don't Fall in Love" hinted at the subtleties of forbidden love. "Friendzone Song" satirized that heart-mangling situation of romance that fails to take off as a serious teenage horror.

With last year's "Sa Wakas" (by Culture Shock Productions), and now, "Toilet," Yatco is fast proving himself to be one of, if not the most exciting, young musical director and composer of the contemporary local theater scene.

In general, the predominantly student-actor ensemble could flesh out the basic intricacies of their roles - never mind emotional realism - even as they had to suffer through the endless stomping and galloping that marked Jim Ferrer's angst-ridden choreography.

Franco Chan, as class jock and valedictorian Paul, glowed with a natural leading-man sensibility, while Mica Fajardo showed she could be flat-out hilarious as the Bible-quoting slut-in-disguise Lucille (until the character kind of morphed into a wailing witch in Act II).

Stage presence
But it was Krystal Kane, as campus slut Therese, who displayed the sort of stage presence heralding the birth of a potential future theater star. It was all visible in the way she composed herself, the way she could shine through the group numbers without once chewing scenery, her effective use of body language to convey adolescent sexuality, her ravishing singing.  

"That Type of Girl," Therese's jazzy, self-expositional number, was the perfect avenue for Kane to audition for a future production of Kander and Ebb's "Chicago."

"Toilet" also boasted an ingenious piece of musical staging. Early in Act II, resident fat girl Tiffany (Cassie Manalastas) sings "Skinny Disney Princesses," an ode to fatness, thinness, and everything in between. The climax of that number literally featured Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Belle, and Aurora dressed in frilly, high-cut modernist versions of their signature gowns, barricading Manalastas from "food" (the boys in oversized cardboard cutouts).

It's the epitome of the show's characteristic whimsy, but also of the daring creativity that coursed deep in this production.

All things considered, BlueRep's "Toilet: The Musical" was far from perfect, but it's an admirably brave attempt - and for a first try, that would do.   

Sunset at the Ateneo. March 1, 2014.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

PDI Review: 'August: Osage County' by Repertory Philippines

My review of Repertory Philippines' "August: Osage County" was in yesterday's Inquirer - here. It's no secret that I loved the film version (unjustly ravaged by American critics), starring Julia Roberts and the great Meryl Streep. Also, no title for this one since the big boss decided to try something new: a common header for the reviews of two shows that are basically about the same subject matter. The other one's by Cora Llamas, on Tanghalang Pilipino's "Mga Ama, Mga Anak" (the Nick Joaquin play) at the CCP.  

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"August: Osage County," the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play by actor-writer Tracy Letts, is set in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, a speck of a town of less than 4,000 people somewhere in the Great American Plains. The state is just north of Texas, so it's perfectly acceptable to assume that they must speak in a sort of Southern accent there.

But in the context of Repertory Philippines' running production of "August," geography and speech patterns become irrelevant. Without its seemingly distant, all-American facade, Letts' three-act, three-hour tragicomedy about the dysfunctional Weston family remains an instantly familiar brand of entertainment hereabouts.

That is, "August," packed with planetary portions of juicy dialogue and a dash of physical aggression, is in its indisputable way the mother of all soap operas - and it couldn't have landed on a more fitting shore, in a country that feeds nightly on unending servings of teleserye or TV soap opera.

More menacing

The world of "August" is confined to the crumbling Weston residence. Director Miguel Faustmann, who's more widely recognized as an actor, has created a three-tiered set that's as cluttered as it is detailed, aptly mirroring the laborious existences that walk its creaky floors. 

Faustmann just about scaled down the original Broadway design, but combined with Katsch Catoy's lights, this more intimate setup also imbues the house with a darker, more menacing air.

"But... a house is not a home when there's no one there," goes the '60s ditty made popular by Dionne Warwick. "August," meanwhile, makes a case for a house that's even less of a home - and more a hellhole - when stuffed to the brim with people.

The prologue introduces us to the patriarch Beverly Weston (an appropriately slurry Leo Rialp) literally waxing poetic - he's quoting T.S. Eliot - before Johnna, the Indian woman he's hired as house help (played by Angeli Bayani).

That's the only time we see Beverly; by Act I, he's been missing for five days. In playwriting parlance, that means a grand homecoming, where the rest of the extended clan descend upon the homestead to rekindle old ties, bicker with each other, share old stories, and bicker some more.

It's a time-tested formula that's at work here, in which all the characters are cooped up under one roof and left to their own devices for a theatrical fight to the finish. The fighting becomes especially bloodier because of Letts' ruthlessly eloquent dialogue (someone screams, "Eat the fish, bitch!") and his seven cogently written female characters.

At the core of this gladiatorial household is Beverly's wife Violet, a drug addict whose mouth is a volcano of cuss words, insults, and oral cancer. Here, she is played by the legendary Baby Barredo, and one would be hard put to conceivably find another actress to take her place. 

There is no other way to clearly illustrate Barredo's turn as Violet except to say that she literally sets the stage ablaze whenever she speaks. It's a magnificent performance by any standard, where the insults erupting from her mouth literally sear the ears, where her piercing, eagle-eyed stare ("Nobody slips anything by me," she intones) can make even the viewer at the backmost row shrink back in fear.

It's a rare and extraordinary thrill, really, to witness Barredo revel in the character's malevolence and sink her teeth into her meatiest role of late with undaunted voracity.


But Barredo finds her match in Pinky Amador, who plays the eldest Weston daughter Barbara. Barbara is a weary fighter, burdened by marital woes, menopause, and an inherent need to "run things," to quote her iconic declaration in Act II's sensational fight scene.

Amador, who was last seen onstage as the title character in Atlantis Productions' "Piaf" a year ago, brings very much the same brutalizing ferocity to her Barbara. It is a completely unhinged portrayal, derived perhaps from the actress' awareness that tuning up the volume and sharpening her own set of knives are the only ways that Barbara can go head-to-head with her monstrous mother.

And this is the thumping heart of "August," really - the struggle of two women over power and control over the household, and the gradual blurring of the lines, where mother and daughter eventually become indistinguishable from each other.

In this sense, the casting, or rather, pairing of Barredo and Amador is a masterstroke, so much so that this "August" can reconsider changing its marquee to bear "The Baby and Pinky Show."

The rest of the veteran cast impeccably embody their roles. In particular, Liesl Batucan affectingly captures the muddled, narcissistic soul of Karen (the youngest daughter, whose idea for a funeral dress comes with a thigh-high slit).

Sheila Francisco is a whirlwind of brazen nuttiness and nastiness as Violet's sister Mattie Fae, and Bayani, in her few lines, is a surprisingly strong presence as Johnna.

(In fact, only Thea Gloria, as Barbara's daughter Jean, betrays any hint of difficulty grasping the character, but hindsight seems to justify her coarse, plodding manner of speaking as a fairly accurate depiction of the pothead adolescent.)

Given that there's not an "un-juicy" role in this play, there is always the danger of any production of "August" - more so this Repertory version that features some of the country's finest stage performers - becoming a deafening Grand Guignol, whose terrors take the form of frayed relationships, pulped egos, and violently uncapped wigs (the last one happens to Violet herself).

Enter Chris Millado, artistic director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, who directs this "August" - the first time he's ever helmed a Rep production. In the programme notes, he highlights ensemble work as the most essential factor in staging the play.

And that's exactly what transpires on that stage. As a director who's quite experienced in dealing with the spectacular (2012's "Stageshow" comes to mind), Millado's mantra appears to be "restraint," and it shows in the way his actors handle the endless, exhilarating wordplay that is this play's most satiating pleasure.

The result is a tightly directed show that leaves no room for unnecessary showboating but with nary a dull scene. Thus, the great irony of "August" is cleanly fleshed out: That the laughs become bigger and more frequent just as the characters sink deeper and deeper in the muck of their lives.

"August: Osage County" by Repertory Philippines runs until March 16 at OnStage, Greenbelt 1, Makati City. Performance schedule: Friday 8PM, Saturday 3:30PM and 8PM, and Sunday 3:30PM. The show is almost 3 1/2 hours long, with a five-minute intermission between Acts I and II, and ten minutes between Acts II and III. Call (02) 571-6926 or (02) 571-4941 or visit for tickets.