The rise of the straight play

CHASING TOFF - Christopher De Venecia () - September 5, 2011 - 12:00am

I’ve never really been a fan of straight plays. It must be the Filipino in me who seems naturally inclined to great music festered throughout keen storytelling and rousing choreography. In the occasion of my annual Broadway sojourns, my itinerary is usually packed with musicals but I do indulge in the occasional straight play — with a caveat that there’s a Hollywood celebrity headlining it. Obviously, my objective it to see them live, up-close and perchance I take a photo with them after the performance. I’ve managed to take a decent one with Julianne Moore who starred in The Vertical Hour and get a photo of Daniel Radcliffe who made waves in Equus. I also got to see Entourage’s Jeremy Piven and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss in Speed the Plow, and Katie Holmes, John Lithgow, and Patrick Wilson in All My Sons.

In recent years though, I’ve been coming around to appreciate the straight play and have moved past the allure of Hollywood celebrity. I caught the last performance of Red on Broadway with Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne and absolutely loved it. The piece was so gripping that it made me listen intently and appreciate the breadth of the material. Next Fall was also amazing — a good mix of drama and comedy which I believe is being done here in Manila next year.

Locally, I got to see The 39 Steps and Shakespeare in Hollywood both by Repertory Philippines, directed by Ana Abad Santos and Jaime del Mundo respectively, and was wonderfully pleased by these conceptual gems that kept me engaged from start to finish. Most recently, I saw CTE’s Love, Loss and What I Wore and Virgin Labfest 7 where I was surprised by a diverse crop of shows in Streetlight Manifesto, Walang Kawala, and Floy Quintos’ Evening at the Opera with Ana Abad Santos, Frances Makil Ignacio and Jonathan Tadioan.

For this theater aficionado, the straight play is truly on the rise, and with these next few shows roaring to perform to a more receptive Filipino audience, I thought I’d do you guys a favor and let you in on the 411.

The UP Playwrights’ Theater recently mounted a limited run of award-winning playwright Floy Quintos’ Fake as directed by theater icon Tony Mabesa. It was a show that delved into the final days of Jose Marco, a man who successfully foisted his forgeries of the Code of Kalantiao and La Loba Negra until they were utterly debunked by renowned historian Henry Scott. The show, as headlined by acclaimed actor and director Joel Lamangan in the role of Jose Marco, scrutinizes our need as a people to cling and believe in something bigger than ourselves, and perhaps, something bigger than truth itself. The show also featured Gerard Pizarras and Bryan Tibayan alternating as Old Miguel, Ross Pesigan as the Young Miguel, Paul Holme as William Henry Scott, Ces Quesada and Alya Honasan as Concepcion, Jerald Napoles as the Lobo of Tasaday and Datu Kalantiao, Karen Gaerlan as La Loba Negra, Richard Cunanan as George, and Shamaine Buencamino as Sister Emily.

Cris Pasturan and Mike Tan are featured in Titus Andronicus.

Continuing the 150th birthday celebration of Dr. Jose Rizal, Gantimpala Theater stages El Filibusterismo with new directors Jeffrey Camanag and Andre Tiangco. The former relates, “El Filibusterismo is a very dark novel, it was set in a dark time written during the dark days of the Spanish tyranny…” He adds, “It is the intention of this production to reconstruct the face of greed as painted by the great Jose Rizal.” With the use of creative staging, powerful visuals, and clear storytelling, Gantimpala hopes to usher and challenge the audience to look beyond the aesthetics of the show and zero in on the nuances and subtleties, especially in those embedded within Simoun’s confessions to Padre Florentino.

For this production, Roeder Camanag will play Don Simoun/Mr. Leeds, Joe Gruta as Padre Florentino, Paolo O’ Hara as Kabesang Tales, Ku Aquino as Padre Camorra, Mondrian Sampang as Padre Salvi, Dante Balois as Tata Selo and Don Custodio, Alfred Urieta and Francis Cruz III as Basilio, Hazel Orencio as Juli/Pepay, Kristian Chua as Isagani, Flerida as Donya Victorina, Anna Deroca as Paulita Gomez, Jun-Jun Quintana as Juanito Pelaez, and Noel Escondo and Raymond Talavera as Placido Penitente/Imuthis.

From a classic to another classic, Dulaang UP stages Layeta Bucoy’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy, Titus Andronicus which will run from Sept. 14 to Oct. 2 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater. Two weeks before elections wrought in a state of paranoia and ambition are poised to catapult, the story of a hitman unfolds. The show intertwines political chaos and religious frenzy in a world where elections, showbiz and a town feast drown the people in murky violence.

The show will feature a stellar cast led by Cinemalaya 2011 best actor Bembol Roco and best supporting actress Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, GMA 7’s Mike Tan, and theater actors Mailes Kanapi, Paolo O’ Hara, Paulo Cabanero, Arnold Reyes, Rolando Inocencio, Cris Pasturan, Nicco Manalo, JK Anicoche, Nar Cabico, Delphine Buencamino, Olive Nieto, JR Macanas, Julius Gareza and Eula Valdez.

And finally, to cap off this series, another piece about our National Hero in Sino Ka Ba Jose Rizal? which will be headlined by the likes of Pinoy Pop Superstar winner Gerald Santos and Pinoy Dream Academy alumnus RJ Jimenez. Tony Espejo, Gantimpala Theater’s artistic director relates, “We can learn so much from (Rizal’s) history, most especially the great relationships he had with his mother Dona Teodora, brother Paciano, and sisters; his devotion to the academe and the ardor for the written word; the romances that added color to his years and the nationalistic fervor he had for the country and how he stirred the consciousness of his fellow men through his novels.”

* * *

Dulaang UP’s Titus Adronicus will run from Sept. 14 to Oct. 2 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater. For inquiries, call Cherry Edralin at 0917-7500107. El Filibusterismo will be staged on Sept. 9 and Sept 10 at the Cinema 3, SM Southmall. Sino Ka Ba Jose Rizal? will run on Sept. 3 (10 a.m./2 p.m.) at Expo Filipino Pampanga; Sept. 23, 10 a.m./2 p.m. at the Ynares Gym in Antipolo, and Oct. 14 and 15 10 a.m./2 p.m. at the AFP Theater. For tickets, call Gantimpala at 899-5911 and 998-5622.

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