Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PDI Review: 'Stageshow' by Tanghalang Pilipino; 'William' by PETA

The Philippine Daily Inquirer has started a stand-alone theater section, which comes out every Saturday. The Gibbs Cadiz is now the editor and has invited me to be part of his pool of writers. My first piece (originally a simple blog entry) comes out this Saturday: omnibus reviews of "Stageshow" and "William" - the shows I saw during the 4th National Theater Festival at the CCP. [UPDATE: Online version of my article here

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'William' and 'Stageshow'--rerun please

"Stageshow" by Mario O'Hara is first and foremost a Broadway show for the Filipino. Yet, during its initial run last month, it had the misfortune of competing with "The Phantom of the Opera," which played to packed houses night after night right above it.

How fate bitchily makes use of its metaphors. For had the audience of "Phantom" also paid as much attention to this player at the CCP Little Theater, they would have been treated to a dazzlingly coherent act of acts, a melange of overflowing artistry that all the more made sense as a whole.

There's straight drama, melancholy and flashy musical numbers, dance routines, even a radio drama (utilized to enchanting effect). One can very well call this O'Hara's farewell gift to local theater.

Shamaine Buencamino left not a single emotion untapped in her virtuoso turn as Ester (in some distant way, it might as well be her "Sophie's Choice"), but an even more fiery star burned in husband Nonie Buencamino, who flirted, tap-danced, philandered, and died his way to dizzying actorly heights, culminating in an explosive redefinition of "performance" in "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die."


"William," meanwhile, a play that makes adroit use of rap to tackle Shakespeare in the public school classroom, was a charmer from start to finish. In transposing Shakespeare's stratospheric English to commonplace Filipino, to the tongue of the ordinary Manila pedestrian, the sidewalk hagglers, the manangs who run the market stalls, the play successfully delivered the Bard and his works to the plate of its hormonal teenagers in fresher, less complicated fashion.

The ingenious set: Chairs. They become school lockers, other forms of furniture, even entrance/exit archways. A student enters, the teacher says to him: "Ay wala nang upuan. Sige, pitas ka na lang diyan." If money can't grow on trees, at least chairs can.        

Five central performances, each personality as distinct as the color-coded costumes, anchored by Meann Espinosa's teacher - an insanely brilliant ball of comic sensibility - and Jojo Atienza's shape-shifting turn as the four fathers. Plus, a delightful lesbian in Happy Constantino's Strawberry Shortcake ("'Beh, for short").

For these two productions - rerun please!    

Future doctors from the UP College of Medicine with the indefatigable Meann Espinosa. From my Instagram (username: vincengyu).

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Friday night, we watched Revolution - De La Salle Innersoul's 15th anniversary concert. Well, I was actually required to watch - it was our friend Rika's final concert with the org (she graduated last month). It must be said that alumni of this org include Gian Magdangal (who was one of the night's special guests), Fredison Lo, and Johann dela Fuente - stars of 9 Works' recent staging of Rent (my review).

I'd say the concert was somewhere between Maroon 5 (where people are shouting and jumping and singing along) and Lea Salonga (prim and proper, one-woman theatrical show). Songs included the Aria winner "You're the Voice" (originally recorded by John Farnham), "Sowing the Seeds of Love" (Tears for Fears), and "Love Is a Battlefield," which was Rika's solo. One definite downer, however, was the sound system. I don't know how to describe the mechanisms or whatever, except that it was inappropriately, annoyingly (in the technical sense)... LOUD.

The Yuchengco Auditorium is now the most beautiful venue fit for a theatrical production in Manila that I've stepped foot on. Big but not cavernous, with excellent sightlines. They might as well make this the next Meralco Theater (which really needs major fixing).

The ubiquity of microphones... is something you'll never see in UP.   

Lastly, I finally met the La Sallian Iloilo-Bacolod circle. Went home at two in the morning.

Rika's photo (and abs), borrowed from Facebook without her knowledge.

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The older version of "Cafe Comforts" is one of nineteen poems published in this year's Waywaya, the literary folio of the Manila Collegian, released within the past couple of weeks.

For the record, this is an unsatisfactorily edited folio. There's - yet again - a 't' in my name. Really now, I don't know where editors get the idea that a contributor misspells his or her name. In this modern age, a responsible editor can surely spare some time to query the writer through whatever electronic means. But the (overlooked) errors extend beyond authorship. Take this, from "Curtains and Tales," for example:

movies never to be enjoyed,
fowers never to be given

Given that it took a ridiculously long time to release this folio (deadline of submissions was late March)... I rest my case. After all, part of our tuition goes to the publication, does it not? In my final year in high school, we worked on and released our publication's premiere literary folio in just three months - with a core working group of less than ten people. Just saying. 

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