Tanghalang Pilipino‘s re-staging of Layeta Bucoy’s PRINSIPE MUNTI recalls the familiar themes we find in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry‘s allegorical novel, THE LITTLE PRINCE. Though its original form explores a variety of timeless themes, it highlights the most “relative essential.” As it narrates an allegorical journey of an innocent boy, we travel with him far and wide and encounter universal truths about relationships, responsibilities, beauty, possibilities and love. Yet, it is a sad story about our impending consequences brought about by our inevitable maturities, our relative choices and our willing disbeliefs. As TP re-stages Bucoy’s Filipino translation of Saint-Exupéry’s magical novel, the Filipino audiences review their own lives and examine how we see life once again. Through the magic of lights, sounds and shadows, Tanghalang Pilipino magically re-tells this timeless journey without dismissing its most essential themes.
This local adaptation envelopes its audiences with the mysterious delight that only dark and light can bring. Director Tuxqs Rutaquio orchestrates a synchrony of choreographed sounds, movements and lights as he transforms Saint-Exupéry’s allegorical narrative for the Philippine stage. With Teta Tulay‘s fantastic shadowplay direction and John Batalla‘s soothing lighting design, Rutaquio wonderfully brings to the platform both the original material’s parabolic plot, as well, as its lasting themes. I can argue that PRINSEPE MUNTI doesn’t want to be great in its re-staged form. It has no big production numbers, no flying sets, nor CGIs; but in its simplicity it delivers the themes so greatly as the original material does in each re-reading.
Noel Comia Jr. plays Prinsipe Munti (The Little Prince) with overflowing sincerity, humorous innocence and burning passion. There is great promise in Comia, as there is great potential in his Prinsipe Munti. I’ve first seen Comia from a far balcony seat in one technical rehearsal of PETA‘s RATED PG earlier this year, and I immediately became a fan. Seeing him on the CCP stage revalidates my conviction. See, Comia is “the” Little Prince, no doubt. In his dwarfish, petite and vulnerable form, he projects Saint-Exupéry’s most memorable central character. In him we see ourselves; whether is or was.
Jonathan Tadioan is unquestionably unrefined and eventually gloriously regal as Alamid (The Wolf). In Tadioan, we see a true friend, however limited; however passing. Even in the book, The Wolf symbolizes the tameable spirit in all of us, and Tadioan dreamily delivers so wondrously. JV Ibesante plays both the Taga-mando ng Tren (The Railway Switchman) and the Lasenggero (The Drunkard) with good-humor and spright. While QueenMIA delivers the self-obsessed Rosas 1 (Rose) with palpable confidence, Chi Navarra presents the estranged Rosas 2 (The Desert Flower) with sluggish and irritated presence, as her character requires.
One who’s worth a paragraph of his own is Marco Viaña. It took me a while to recognize him when he first entered as the costumed Geographer in an earlier act. Here, Viaña puts on an unlikely character and proves his versatility with confidence and energy. But it is as the Piloto (The Pilot), that Viaña displays a much deeper characterization to a familiar literary persona. His Piloto renders a more empathic companion, a blinded confidant, and eventually a more learnéd man. Viaña’s take on this character touches us with a familiar dèja vu. He mirrors our blinded maturities and willing disbeliefs. That is why as Bucoy’s plot bends to a poignant denouement, we cry when he cries, and smile when we see that small glimpse of hope in his eyes.
Literary critic, James Higgins was right when he said that Saint-Exupéry’s story exemplifies enlightenment through exploration. This timeless theme penetrates even through our generation of readers, and now, our new audiences. As Prinsipe Munti travels to find companionship and understand life, as well as, sacrifice, we tearfully reminisce our own relative journeys and celebrate our triumphs.
Tanghalang Pilipino’s PRINSIPE MUNTI may have decided to keep it low and simple this month, but it works so gloriously, still. Like Tom Jones’ THE FANTASTIKS, this production’s simplicity magnifies its themes much further and strums deeper chords in our hearts. Yes, the story of Prinsipe Munti could be argued as a sad journey, and in it, we see our pasts. But as we review our small triumphs and great realizations – like the Little Prince and The Pilot – we realize that we are winning in the continuing battle that is Life.
PHOTOS BY: Ms. Trixie Dauz