Jul 10, 2014

[Theater] Virgin LabFest - Set B

Given we had finally broken our Virgin LabFest (VLF) hymen, metaphorically speaking, my partner and I sort of continued on our little path by watching another set of plays from this year's festival. The primary reason we had booked tickets for these two sets were to support a friend who had entries in the festival, but I think it's safe to say that we might try to make more of an effort to see more of the shows next year. At least that's the goal.

As much as I'm quite the theater fan, I have to admit that I don't quite watch enough truly local productions as I probably should. And by that I mean shows that are both written and performed by local talent. Sure, I see a lot of the foreign plays and musicals performed by local theater groups, but that's not quite the same thing, right?

The Virgin LabFest is a great way to get a feel for the kind of talent that we have and to appreciate just what local thespians are trying to accomplish with the medium. And quite frankly, I'm pretty impressed with what came out this year and that only makes me more curious about what else the community has to offer. And hopefully you will too after catching a few shows yourself.

As with last week's discussion of Virgin LabFest plays, I won't assign a formal rating to these plays given their experimental nature. But I'll still go on to discuss each of the three one-act plays and how I felt about them.

First up was Wendy Wants To Be A Housewife by DingDong Novenario. The show starts with Mark (Topper Fabregas) waiting for Wendy (Delphine Buencamino) to arrive at his office. When she does she goes into a reenactment of sorts of her initial interview when she first applied at the company. But quickly enough it is revealed why she's really there - for her exit interview. As much as Mark is her friend, here he's performing the role of her superior who will be handling her exit interview. And while he declared reason had to do with her joining some sort of a startup company, in truth she's determined to leave the ITO industry in order to become a housewife. And thus the play proceeds to follow her discussion of her reasons for wanting to leave but at the same time explores some of their shared personal history as friends.

The writing of the play was pretty good - Novenario has clearly worked in the industry and shows he's quite familiar with how things work. Fabregas and Buencamino were decent choices for the two roles, although I wouldn't quite say they were perfect for it. There were some more subtle cues that were missed and at times the pacing of their interactions also felt a little off. As I've said before in other reviews, Fabregas can only really play one role and he seemed to do that again here. It was still appropriate, but nothing amazing. And the ending felt a little tacked on - somehow out of place. It was both predictable and yet weird in terms of execution and I'm not sure I'm sold on it.

Ang Naghihingalo by Raymund Reyes was clearly the strongest play of the set. It starts with Felisa being led to the hospital waiting room while her husband Intoy remains in the ICU. One-by-one, relatives arrive and go through the usual routine of trying to find out what had happened and whether or not Intoy was going to make it. And eventually the real conflict is revealed - Intoy needs surgery that the doctors estimate will cost at least P300,000, money that none of them seem to have. Thus they argue back and forth about how to get the money and whether or not they'll go as far as asking their Ate Linda (Dolly De Leon) for help.

While it had a bit of a weak start with the limited interaction centered Felisa. It felt like another sad story of woe that is sort of typical for Filipino entertainment. But then Guido (Bong Carbrera) enters the scene and finally clarifies the tone of the play - this is more of a comedy drama than a straight-out sobfest. I have to keep the drama tag there given the interaction between the older siblings of Intoy - Guido, Doreen, and Linda - is really what defines the spirit of the play. And as they argue about past transgressions and the like to both laughs and shocked gasps, Intoy's life is on the line.

And finally there was The Missing Peace by Carlo Vergara, his second foray into the VLF. It is the year 2045 and the Philippines has managed to win 4 out of the 5 big beauty contests. Now it's up to Candy Coron (Hannah dela Guerra) to win the final title of Miss Universal Empress with the aid of her pagent consultant Greg Rodrigo (Rem Zamora) and the head of the Philippine pageant foundation Slyvia Dayrit (Noemi Manika-Gomez). But when Candy goes off to meet the press, Slyvia and Greg go on to discuss her chances of winning. And this oddly leads to Sylvia revealing a secret - that she has learned of an ancient prophecy that claims that should the Philippines win all 5 titles, this will directly lead to world peace. But at the same time, Miss Philippines is fated to die - while all the other winners for that year will forever be single.

Rem Zamora and Noemi Manila-Gomez are simply brilliant in their respective roles - which was critical since they carry the show for the most part. Zamora is a complex actor who shifts from campy to cultured at the drop of a hat. Gomez is classy on a whole different level and it's not at all difficult to imagine that she was once a beauty queen herself. The notion of the prophecy is introduced a little later than I would have liked in terms of the narrative, but in the end it becomes the central question. And some while some of the back and forth discussions could have been tightened up, they do raise good points. The ending is a little up for debate - I can understand why it ended the way it did, thus giving more focus to Candy. On the other hand I can see how it could have been spun differently to keep the focus on Slyvia and Greg, but that would potentially change the message of the play.

On the whole I really enjoyed these three plays and I feel all the better for having seen them. And as early as now I've learned that Ang Nanghihingalo will come back as a Revisited play next year, which is certainly a well-deserved recognition of that performance.

See you next year, VLF!


  1. Dennis N. Marasigan11 July, 2014 02:58

    thank you for watching the plays and sharing your thoughts on them! see you in VLF 11!

  2. You're welcome! I look forward to catching more plays next year!