Jul 11, 2016

[Theater] Virgin LabFest 12 - Set A

In recent years Tobie and I have made a serious effort to go see plays at the annual Virgin LabFest. Admittedly the initial driver was the participation of friends and other people that we know and that still helps us prioritize which productions to try and get tickets for. VLF of course is one of the more affordable theater events around and thus competition can be pretty fierce.

But we at least got tickets for the sets of plays that we most wanted to see - these being Set A and Set B for Virgin LabFest 12. And during the past weekend we finally got to see Set A despite the adverse weather and terrible Metro Manila traffic on the way to the venue.

We primarily wanted to catch this set of plays since a friend of ours was performing this night. Beyond being friends, we've become fans as he's quite the compelling actor and we only hope that he one day gains the success and recognition that he deserves.

Set A featured three plays: Dahan-Dahan Ang Paglubog Ng Araw, Ang Sugilanon ng Kabiguan ni Epifania and Si Jaya, Si Ronda, Si Barbara, At Ang Mahiwagang Kanta.

Dahan-Dahan Ang Paglubog Ng Araw (Directed by Adolf Alix Jr. and Written by Soc Delos Reyes) is a more somber piece that follows a father (Juliene Mendoza), his daughter (Nicole Dulalia), and his sister (Angelina Kanapi) as he deals with a terminal illness. He does his best to hide the severity of his condition from his daughter so she can focus on living her life by studying hard in school and maybe even going to the prom. But his sister keeps reminding him to face the reality of his condition and to prepare his daughter to face the grim reality of things.

The performance felt a little underpowered, and maybe it was because of the weather or the gap between show schedules. Mendoza is a pretty competent actor although a lot of his jokes weren't delivered in a loud enough voice to be fully appreciated throughout the theater. The same goes for Kanapi who clearly has skills as well but felt somewhat understated in this show.

On the whole, the play didn't feel like it said anything particularly new or noteworthy beyond the fact that a parent would want to shield his or her children from the harshness of real life. Still, it was a play with a heart and gets 3 song references out of 5.

Ang Sugilanon ng Kabiguan ni Epifania (Directed by Charles Yee and Written by Alexandra Mae Cardoso) is a brilliant little modern telling of the sort of folklore stories that litter Philippine history. Instead of the traditional grandmother figure telling the story, we instead have two drunks as portrayed by (our friend) Bong Cabrera and JV Ibesate as they try to console a heartbroken young man (Ross Pesigan). And to do these they tell the story of the legendary Epifania and all that she had done in the name of love.

The writing behind this play is pretty awesome as they managed to seamlessly weave together the modern day story of the three men drinking with the rather classically structured folk story. The lines blurred nicely between the two setting as you'd have the boys watching the story unfold in front of them but later on also interacting with the same environment and the complex world of Epifania. One of the best bits about the play is how the language mix really feels like a Bisaya tale and yet one can easily understand what is going on despite all the language code-switching.

This play was definitely one of the highlights of the night for us and perhaps for the whole festival - we'll know for sue once we've seen more plays. But this definitely gets a great 5 crazy things that a "drunken" Bong does during the story out of 5.

Si Jaya, Si Ronda, Si Barbara, At Ang Mahiwagang Kanta (Directed by Roobak Valle and Written by Oggie Arcenas) is as light as the title implies as it's a comedy that is set in a KTV bar where three friends are having a mini-reunion. With all the punchlines and on-liners we soon learn more about the lives of each of the three women and how things haven't been great. And when one of them claims to know a spell to imbue an items with a spirit that could grant a wish leads to a silly little romp as they try to determine whose wish deserves to be fulfilled.

The writing for this show is amazingly funny and I can totally see this being expanded into a movie script or even a TV series. Arcenas has a flair for comedy and the cast helped make the mosts of his words by delivering a truly hilarious performance. Sure, the play isn't the sort of deal that will make you look at the world in a completely different way. But it's the kind of funny, silly, solid comedic piece that is sure to make you smile after a long day.

I need to find the cast list since those girls were totally hilarious! The fortune-teller was definitely one of the more memorable performers for the night but the three worked together excellently. The play as a whole gets a good 4 joke exchanges with the KTV bar waiter out of a possible 5.

And that's my round-up for Set A! Will be catching Set C this weekend so expect another review next week.

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