Jul 22, 2010

[Theater] Edges: A Song Cycle (Ateneo Blue Repertory)

Edges: A Song Cycle (Blue Repertory)College theater productions will always be somewhat endearing to me. I guess there's always that excitement about seeing new talent at work. The experience is no longer just about watching the play on its own merits. The true value is in seeing the potential in the players and the production and trying to map out where they might end up in the future.

Some would say that it would be wrong to judge a college production differently than other, but then that's just how I see it. It's important to have a sense of scale so that you don't set ones expectations too high. I know I even have some sense of scale applied to certain theater companies out there in the open, to be quite frank. But I digress.

So when a dear friend invited me to a college production he had directed, of course I agreed to the request. It wasn't just about blind support for the efforts of a friend, naturally. This was about my love of theater, my respect for my friend and my curiosity to see just how this production would come out. I definitely found the experience to be quite enjoyable.

Edges: A Song Cycle is a musical production penned by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Blue Repertory, Ateneo's musical theater organization is staging the production at the Fine Arts Theater at Gonzaga Hall at the Ateneo de Manila University Campus throughout the month of July. Pasek and Paul created this musical when they were only 19 and this probably contributed to how it seems to resonate so well in a college environment - perhaps even beyond that.

The play centers around four characters - names are mentioned during the performance but for now we can just identify them as Man 1 & 2 and Woman 1 & 2. Edges is all about transitions - considering how one can move from one stage in life to the next. Hence my statement about how it works well in a college environment - a time of many changes and even redefining oneself. At the same time, these are not the only transitions we experience - it's a never-ending process that we experience time and time again.

Woman 1 (Hae-In Lee) and Woman 2 (Maronne Cruz) are sisters who are growing out of their old relationship. Woman 1 is already transitioning into the life of a full adult together with her boyfriend Man 1 (Gab Medina) while Woman 2 is still but a child, unable to understand what her sister is getting into. Man 1 is trying to find his way in life beyond just some McJob at a pizza place. And Man 2 (Baus Rufo) is a young gay man dealing with his own complicated relationships and defining his goals in life. We follow the four through different times and stages in their lives and get a glimpse of what they're thinking and how their opinions and principles change as time moves on.

The play is quite a demanding one given (1) the limited cast and (2) how every player has an abundance of solos to perform. At the same time, I can imagine how tempting these roles are for any actor given the challenge of fulfilling the role. The young talent featured in this particular run of the play was quite impressive and I can certainly see them going far in the long run.

Gab Medina has a lot of raw talent - amazing potential and a powerful set of pipes. He was a bit nervous during the production and it showed in some of his songs, but for the most part he was a great performer for most of the play. He seemed to be having a bit more difficulty with the more emotional songs that needed a bit more control and finesse. However he'd truly shine when the song demanded that he belt his heart out, something he has an amazing talent for.

Maronne Cruz also clearly stood out as a strong performer. Some might argue that it's more because her character was written to be rather endearing to the audience, I feel it's more than that. Regardless of how a character was written, it's ultimately up to the actor or actress to fill out the role to the best of one's ability. Maronne certainly did this and more during the day that we performed and there was nothing that felt like she was a #2 to anyone. She was funny when needed, musically skilled and managed to establish great rapport with the audience.

Hae-In and Baus were also skilled in their own rights, although their performances were somewhat overshadowed by their counterparts. I feel the difference in performance level was due more to their inability to sing loud enough to overcome the music, thus taking away much from their performances. Still, they did quite well were still valuable players in this performance. I expect they'll get better as they get more practice.

The music in itself was just amazing. There are so many songs that were written quite well and had the candor and honesty that makes them more relevant to more people. Become is a great song of hope and expectations while Be My Friend (Facebook) is the fun kind of song that is not just enjoyable but very relevant to most of us. It speaks of the youth and vitality of the play and thus opening the doors to more age ranges. I Hmm You is the cute kind of love piece that describes the kind of point in many relationships a lot of us find ourselves in at one period or another. And Man of My Dreams is just funny on so many levels - even more so if you can catch all the references.

As much as I discussed the need for scale when evaluating such productions, I felt this was still a rather top notch one by any regard. Let's be frank - I've seen Repertory Philippines plays that lacked the kind of passion and spirit that the young actors demonstrated in this production. It's definitely a play I'd urge more of you to see, especially for those who love more modern musicals of the Larson variety.

Edges: A Song Cycle is a brief yet highly fulfilling play that is filled with great music from start to finish. It gets 4 cynical statements about how to kill an ex-boyfriend out of 5.
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