By Alvin I. Dacanay
This February, several local performing-arts companies will present their final productions for the 2014–2015 season. By many accounts, this season has been a strong one that featured entertaining, yet thought-provoking works and improved ticket sales, despite the government’s continued neglect of artists, performing and otherwise. If the productions set to open this month are any indication, the current season should end on another high note.
One of these productions is Rody Vera’s Bilanggo ng Pag-ibig (Prisoner of Love) (Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, or Dulaang UP), which is largely based on celebrated French writer and political activist Jean Genet’s last major book, Un Captif Amoureux, and on some events from his life.
Dulaang UP describes Genet’s final work as “a lyrical and philosophical voyage to the bloody intersection of oppression, terror and desire at the heart of the contemporary world.”
“The play, then, seeks to understand and portray Genet’s imagination, as well as his controversial insights on revolution, betrayal and deceit, homosexuality, violence, and love. Bilanggo ng Pag-ibig, therefore, is a response to Genet’s daring claim and provocation: ‘The end pursued by revolution is the discovery of beauty.’”
Bilanggo ng Pag-ibig is directed by José Estrella, and will run from February 11 to March 1 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, on the second floor of Palma Hall in UP Diliman, Quezon City. (For details, call 981-8500, loc. 2449, or send an e-mail to email@example.com.)
Another production is Joshua Lim So’s Tungkol Kay Angela (About Angela) (Destiyero Theater Commune). First-prize winner in the full-length play in Filipino category at the 2014 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and shortlisted at the 23rd BBC International Playwriting Competition, Tungkol Kay Angela is described by the theater company as “set in the near future, when the country is once again under the control of a totalitarian regime.”
“Pa and Ma, both belonging to the generation born after the People Power Revolution of 1986, harbor a young man who had just escaped police brutality. They will talk about ‘Angela,’ something they call the woman [that] Fred was about to meet, but refuses to name.
“But what seemed like mundane talk will eventually lead to the destruction and transformation of their aspirations and memories. Using ‘Angela’ to weave together their stories and pasts in order to exhume the truth and protect themselves, a powerful struggle between the three will arise—a struggle that may destroy them.”
Tungkol Kay Angela is directed by Banaue Miclat and will be staged on February 12 (1 and 8 p.m.) and 13 (4:30 p.m.) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) Tanghalang Huseng Batute. (For inquiries, call 0917-5064517 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
For its part, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) will mount Arbol del Fuego (Fire Tree), Vera’s adaptation of Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov’s classic play The Cherry Orchard.
Described by the Ticketworld website as a tragicomedy, Arbol del Fuego is about Enriquetta Jardeleza-Sofronio, a middle-aged matriarch who comes home after wasting her family’s fortune on a long stay in Madrid. Buried in debt, she and her younger brother, Adjie, are advised to sell their estate to avoid bankruptcy. But they refuse, and insist on keeping their ancestral house and the rows of fire trees framing the estate. The Jardelezas, instead, throw party after lavish party, reminiscing about their luxurious past in an effort to forget their diminishing wealth.
Vera has said that, although the Chekhov classic is somber in mood, it is told with underlying sarcasm and humor. His adaptation—set in Negros Occidental province during the Marcos-era sugar monopoly in the late 1970s, when most landowners stood helpless in their decline—laughs at the habits and tendencies of the diminishing aristocratic class. The fire tree, a flowering tree that bears no fruit, Vera has said, is a symbol of the beauty and emptiness of a class that is losing its grips on wealth and power.
Helmed by Loy Arcenas, Arbol del Fuego will open on February 20 and run until March 15 at the Peta Theater Center, located at 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City. Shows are at 3 and 8 p.m. (For more information, call 410-0821 to 22 or visit www.petatheater.com).
Also opening on February 20 are two works that will be staged at the CCP as part of its current season. The first is Juego de Peligro (Dangerous Liaisons) (Tanghalang Pilipino), Palanca Award winner Elmer Gatchalian’s adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s classic 18th-century epistolary novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
In this adaptation, set in 1890s Manila, Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont—so memorably brought to life by Oscar nominees Glenn Close and John Malkovich in Stephen Frears’s 1988 film version—are now Spanish aristocrats and former lovers Señora Margarita and Señor Vicente, who remain unshaken in their desire to engage in depravity through their vicious games of conquest. They both decide to prey on the young and virginal Cecilia, the indio Daniel, and the recently married mestiza Señora Teresa.
Juego de Peligro is directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio and will be staged at the CCP’s Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino until March 8. Shows are at 3 and 8 p.m. (For details, call 832-1125 or visit www.culturalcenter.gov.ph).
The second is Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical (CCP and Ballet Philippines Foundation Inc.), which was first staged by UP Tropa in 1991.
According to the CCP website, Manhid—written by Kanakan-Balintagos (formerly known as Auraeus Solito), with the music composed by Balintagos, Vincent de Jesus, Carina Evangelista and the Eraserheads—is set in an alternate present-day Philippines, where the Edsa Revolution failed; and features superpowered heroes and villains, as well as a people sick with kamanhiran, or apathy.
Directed by Paul Alexander Morales, and choreographed by him and Alden Lugnasin, Manhid is co-presented by Tanghalang Pilipino and will be mounted at the CCP’s Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo until March 8. Shows are at 2 and 6 p.m. (For inquiries, call 832-1125 or visit www.culturalcenter.gov.ph).