To start off, it is a very beautiful play. In its abstracted narrative, yet plain story-telling, Glenn Sevilla-Mas has offered the Filipino audience something that they can treasure, reflect on, and willingly revisit…again, and again, and again. Sevilla Mas’ GAMES PEOPLE PLAY may make its audiences laugh, but once you think about it, it is a sad story. It tells of the inevitable tragedies that we have all gone through, at least once in our lives. It may tell about playful pasts, the childish jokes and magical make-believes, but in its core is an grimmer discourse about the story of man (or woman), and how one’s early journey affects one’s future.
Luna, Diego and Julio are childhood friends. They play, they tell stories, and create their own childish fantasies. But beneath the playful facade, each lives their own life. Luna has to bear living with an alcoholic father and religious mother. Diego lives with his estranged mom who still hasn’t moved on since his father left them. Julio tries to hide his sexuality from his mother and sisters. As these three characters connect they develop more than just friendships. As the plot unfolds, each develops their own realizations and identities, that would mould them to something that they may, or may not, want.
The entire set is as unpretentious as a child. Director Ed Lacson Jr. presents an unvarnished narrative through made-up cardboards and title cards. Each of Sevilla-Mas’ character has its own space, its own timeframe, and a palpable dimension. Luna has the church, Diego, the woods, and Julio, the house. Everything looks blunt, yet honest; colorless, yet brimming with clarity. Put together all these dimensions and we see a community – an ideal breeding ground for the young. In it’s two-hour running time, the players prove to be more than just singular personas as they put on other characters, ultimately symbolizing an early universe. As the story progresses, Lacson merges these dimensions into one complete whole; subscribing to Sevilla-Mas’ (somewhat) allegorical odyssey.
This two-act play comes with amazing performances from its three leads. Thea Yrastorza plays Luna with heartfelf sincerity. As Luna, Yrastorza offers the child that we were who tries to keep the truth away, only to find it creeping, still, in the end.
Abner Delina Jr. as Julio is charming at times, but could be excruciatingly painful to watch as he depicts something familiar, and so close to home. But that’s just me. I particularly like Delina when he puts on the role of Diego’s estranged mother. See, even at freeze form, Delina sublty reacts to the scene with silent characterization. As Diego confronts his mother for being emotionally absent and an undue burden, and as he proclaims that her husband will never return, Delina responds most indistinctly. As his eyes brimmed with silent tears, Delina’s reaction gives off another dimension to this distant matriarch, enveloping his audiences with a familiar confirmation of love forever lost.
But it is JC Santos who shines in this production. Santos has been one of my favorites in Dalanghita Production’s KPANLL. In Santos, I see a rising star; someone who could par with the likes of Jef Flores and Marco Viaña. As Diego, he brims with innocent curiosity making him a victim of his own inquisitiveness. Like Yrastoza and Delina, Santos also switches roles with amazing sense of rhythm. His toned down nuances changes according to each of his characters’ take, that one can’t help not to be awed.
GAMES tackles common themes on a familiar journey we all took, at least once in our lives; yet, it manages to dig a bit deeper; it delves a bit darker. It argues that each of us needs to go through some form of tragedy just so we could make ourselves whole. These tragedies may take different forms: primal fear, abuse, rejection, uncertainty and sexuality. At first, we deny these realities. We close our doors like Luna; even swear that we could be better than our parents. We blame our elders for their absence, and question their choices like Diego. And as Julio suppresses his emerging identity, we see our own self-oppression and the pains that go with it.
In the long run, we realize that there is no escape from these misfortunes. In the end, we embrace the truth that life’s queer roadmap requires a crazy trip before we could finally decide who we are. It is be painful, yes, but it is ultimately liberating. As the final chapter unfolds to with a title card: “The Grimmer Shade of Dark,” we fully understand how we have gone through the same cliffs and fell. GAMES PEOPLE PLAY is a sad story about a tragedy. But as we realize how we have had survived such fall, it makes it is a happy tragedy.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY is currently running with SI MARIA ISABELLA AT ANG GURYON NG MGA TALA as part of Bit by Bit Company‘s twin-bill CHILDREN’S PLAY FOR ADULTS. It closes today, December 20 at Power Mac Spotlight in Circuit Makati. You can catch their last two shows later at 3pm and 8pm. Click here for details. Please don’t miss this.
Parehong silang nakapakaganda.
PHOTOS BY: Mr. Erickson dela Cruz