When Raffy Tejada and Atty. Nicolas Pichay came up with the idea of collaborating the outputs of their students, the outcome was quite transformative. Atty. Pichay’s final requirement for his graduates’ Playwriting class was a one-act work from each student. Tejada, meanwhile, took the chance to make use of these works and showcase them in a 2-hour DLSU Harlequin Theater Guild yearly playfest.
Thus, DuLaSalle 2K15: KOLAB becomes a montage of rather surprisingly entertaining and wonderfully executed productions of the works from Pichay’s writing class. DLSU Harlequin manages to pull off an endearing, yet powerful array of festival-worthy performances of four one-acts (for DLSU Taft). With its energized fludity and straight-forward discourses, KOLAB offers an extremely delightful theater experience.
Joyce Roque’s GUHIT tells about an unlikely friendship between two people in the midst of war. It is 1945 in the Philippines and young Manuel (Luis Breva), a young aspiring painter, has forged a connection with Lt. Kenji Kataoka (Seaver Choy) of the Japanese Army. As the second world war comes to a close and with the Japanese forces facing a new threat from the West, Manuel and Kenjie will have to confront their friendship and their dreams. Director Joshua Martin Tayco carefully constructs a skeletal presentation of a historical, yet familiar, milieu. Here, Tayco plainly presents the narrative with unbiased motivations, balancing two differing worlds and eventually connecting them. One scene, however, makes a unique mark when Kenji writes to his beloved. Here, Tayco choreographs a rather surreal presentation of imagination, emotions and memory. Worthy to mention, too, is Choy’s portrayal of the Japanese Kataoka, as he offers quite a believable character that surpasses accent and body language.
GUHIT gives a glimpse of the unconventional relationships we develop during the most pressing of times. Roque’s material is mostly filled with stereotyped characters, budding and squared – but in its center are two unwonted souls that manages to deconstruct such common milieu.
In Adrian Ho’s BILLBOARD, we meet Caloy (Daniel Banta), who just started in his job as a construction worker in a Billboard along a major road in Manila. With Caloy is Mang Emong (Jeld Manalo), who has been doing the same work of putting up billboards for years. When an accident occurs along the hi-way, both Caloy and Emong will eventually know their priorities and ultimately, their own selves. Banta’s Caloy is wonderfully convincing. As an ideal young man, Banta stands out with convincing characterization and incredible presence. What I particularly like about him are his controlled movements on stage and the persuasive designs that come with him, thus ultimately drawing a much real character.
BILLBOARD presents a familiar moral-philophical dilemma most of us face everyday. In a society of archetypal folk, with a reputation for lethargy and apathy, we battle between what is good versus what is necessary. When Mang Emong discourages the young Caloy to go down from the billboard, leave his job, and help the victims of the accident, we somehow understand him. Years have taught Emong that in situations like these, one can only do so much. But when he learns that free food abounds as spoils of the incident, Emong leaves quickly and even hands Caloy his share of this unlikely blessing.
But Ho’s arguments doesn’t stop there. When Caloy receives his freebies, he is left by himself on the billboard, overlooking the city, the hungry crowd, the curious spectators, and finally the bag of free food in his arms. Will he have a change of heart?
With a curious look in his eyes, and as a hint of smile starts to cross his lips, Director Charlene Alvarez, turns off the lights just in time before we can see the answer. Here, Ho and Alvarez throw the question back to us, to allow us question ourselves if we are like Caloy or like Emong.
Gay teeneager Alfred (Wryan Lu) commits suicide and jouneys to the afterlife in Anotnette Lofamia’s ISN’T IT PRETTY TO THINK SO? With a group of fag-hag angels journeying with him in his own purgatorial realm, Alfred sees his parents, Ma (Jastine Alfonso) and Pa (Chester Piñon), for the last time before he continues to the next stage in the afterlife. He also sees his best friend Violet (Chloe Tabanda) and Julian (Sammy Arroyo), the campus heart-throb and Alfred’s ultimate love. As the people he leaves behind talk about him Alfred realizes certain truths about them and eventually about himself.
ISN’T IT PRETTY TO THINK SO? presents a familiar scenario, however still piecing and very much close to home. Here, Lofamia offers characters that are full of regret and pained longing for a soul lost forever. Its title gives off the great sense of “things that could have been,” had we offered enough love, care and attention.
Funny, but Lafomia also deconstructs the afterlife by showing that regret continues on even to eternity. It calls to us, the living, to question ourselves and examine how much love we are giving and how much strength we still have in holding on. Because in the long run, if only we’d hold on a little bit more, it’ll soon be “pretty” before you know it.
As the celebration of Buwan ng Wika closes, a school feast is at hand. Student-provided food, brought about by the school’s requirement filled the long table, and the teachers just can’t wait to take home their share(s). Dorynna Untivero’s BALOT is arguably a comedy, but it manages to make its audiences roar with its side-splitting scenes. As a whole, it is an uncommon parody on the politics of our system of education, of women and our own gastric culture! Director Blance Louse Buhia dresses the stage with sumptuous colors, salivating the watching crowd with almost convincing design, it almost makes me want to look for a plastic bag for myself. This final entry also comes with an amazing ensemble, complementing each character and creating a whole universe of parodical misfortunes.
BALOT could be a funny jump-off point from the likes of Gilda Cordero-Fernando’s THE VISITATION OF THE GODS, or Eljay Deldoc’s ANG GOLDFISH NI PROFESSOR DIMAANDAL. Apart from the given expositions on the bureaucratic system in our education, it also argues how our authorities take advantage of their powers over the innocent and the young through legitimate processes and inescapable academic obligations. Further, as the female characters fight over food, love and power, BALOT provides a surprising discourse on “women talk.” Here, Untivero challenges language, as she gears towards female speech, the sexual stances and varying female emotions. Having said that, BALOT is one material worth a Virgin LabFest entry. PERIOD.
At last, I have seen a show that has sustained an unforgettable delight since this year started. Considering that most of the actors in DuLa Salle 2K15: KOLAB are mostly young students, amateurs, and still budding, it was still refreshing to witness how they have grown and managed to offer such a delightful treat. All four plays by Atty. Pichay’s students for DLSU Taft, are worth one’s time. Each were wonderfully written and creatively collaborated into one amazing whole. In this millenial era of learning through effective collaborations, DLSU Harlequin Theater Guild has proved how outputs can be transformative and still be entertaining.
PS. Sir Nick, bigyan mo na ng mataas na grade mga estudyante mo! Ang ganda-ganda ng mga sinulat nila. Ahihihihihi!
Photos courtesy of ANG PAHAYAGANG PLARIDEL
(all photos are used with permission)