Aug 12, 2012

[Theater] Bed Scenes / Sins (JNP Alternative Theater)

So last week I tried out something a little different - two one-act plays being staged by a relatively new theater company known as JNP Alternative Theater, a group that wants to focus on plays with LGBT themes. I had first heard about these plays through a friend - well particularly Bong Cabrera, who directed one of the plays. And naturally in the interests of supporting the creative ventures of a friend, I was fairly determined to make time to see the production.

One thing led to another and I ended up watching with some of my friends from PinoyG4M on a rather rainy night. But despite the bad weather (which turned out to be far worse just a day later), we still had a pretty good time. And thankfully this review comes in just in time for you readers to possibly catch the last show tonight. Yes, tonight! There's still time!

Synopsis: Bed Scenes / Sins is a double feature of two one-act, Filipino-language plays both written by J. Dennis C. Teodosio - namely Dapo and Carmi Martin. Beyond the playright, both plays share a common theme of having a bed as the main setting, and things pretty much take off from there. The production was hosted at the rather alternative location of The Library over in Malate, Manila. The run lasted from July 8 - August 12.

So let's tackle each play one-by-one, shall we?

Dapo (as directed by Bong Cabrera) is set in a motel room as two men wake up - it's the proverbial morning after. As the two converse, we slowly learn their story and perhaps more and more about the two individuals. One is just a 19 year old student as played by Jay Enriquez, who isn't exactly inexperience in the way of these things not is he as experienced as he thinks he is. The other is an out-of-work driver played by Andrei Vegas. He's reluctant to clearly identify with any set label in terms of his sexuality but he does seem to be pretty open to entertaining more of the advances of his younger lover.

This was a fairly serious play with a lot of dialog, frenetic blocking and occasional banter. It seems the actors weren't entirely sure of what they wanted to do at times and it seems that the constant need to reposition themselves around the bed or the set in general led to some weird dance for music we don't here. I kind of get the despite to create some sense of action through their movements but at times I felt it may have been a wee bit too much.

I did appreciate the acting skills of Mr. Vegas - he certainly did a great job of capturing his character and really bringing that to the fore. And for both actors, I admit it couldn't have been easy to go through most of a one-act play just in your underwear.

Carmi Martin (as directed by Paul Santiago) has nothing to do with the popular actress but everything to do with what her name represents in local gay speak - a reference to karma. This time around we have a teacher named Gabriel (Paul Jake Paule) who takes home a student he finds at the mall - later revealed to be named Adonis (Kyle Thomas David). Adonis has all the cockiness and arrogance of youth and seems to enjoy pushing Gabriel's buttons - and I mean this in more ways than one. But as they get to know one another, not everything is as it seems and we as an audience are left to witness the twist in the end.

I loved the script in terms of the inherent humor woven into the dialog and even the blocking. The dialog couldn't have been easy to handle given the constant back and forth between the two characters required decent resolve and good timing. But the two did sufficient justice to the roles, I think it's safe to say. Could have been better,  but they also could have been far, far worse. So credit is definitely deserved there.

Both plays were pretty decent on their own but perhaps still a tad raw around the edges. And that may be an issue with the directors, the actors or perhaps the setting as a whole. The Library is typically a comedy bar and thus the layout of the venue is a simple stage in front of a series of tables and chairs. The acoustics of the venue are a bit dependent on the use of microphones and for both plays the actors had to rely on mere vocal projection with any sort of augmentation. And I think this had a significant effect on full appreciation of the production since at times it was either hard to understand what the actors were saying or on the flip side the actors would end up shouting more than just projecting in order to be heard clearly.

On the whole, Bed Scenes / Sins was a fun juxtaposition to have these two plays - one initially serious and the other initially funny - and have both end up in ways that were still surprising and different. I can see the potential with JNP Alternative Theater given sufficient support and backing over time and one can only wait and see how things will pan out as they stage more and more plays and related productions. Thus for now I'll rate this first show as 3.5 surprise bedroom twists out of a possible 5.

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