There’s an ongoing cultural out-of-the-box event held at CCP. It’s called Virgin Labfest that is now on its fifth year of showcasing untried, untested and unstaged works of the Writer’s Bloc. First week, June 23 – 28, was the first time staging of themed Sets A to F while the following week, this week (on its last weekend to be exact), is a repeat of sort.
As for the sets I’ve seen last week, here are some notes:
SET C: BLOOD SPORTS
“Kitchen Medea” by Kiyokazu Yamamoto (Playwright) and Toshihisa Yoshida (Director)
It’s a modern day retelling of the Greek classic Medea set in a Japan household. It’s a monologue, by the way, and it’s performed by Mailes Kanapi. I like the idea that the kitchen is used as the character’s comfort zone but a tragic story like Medea is too eventful to pull off as a monologue. The best part, of course, is its actress.
“Asawa/Kabit” by George de Jesus III (Playwright/Director)
A reminiscent of Maryo J. Delos Reyes’ “A Love Story”, the play tackles a dark and witty war of the senses between a wife and a mistress. Its episodic take, told as if in a boxing match complete with a bell, is fresh and entertaining. Film and stage actress Sherry Lara and scriptwriter/actress Raquel Villavicencio shared the stage.
“Doc Resureccion: Gagamutin ang Bayan” by Layeta Bucoy (Playwright) and Tuxqs Rutaquio (Director)
I’m a fan of Miss Layeta Bucoy and the capsule review here could be a littled biased. Anyway, the third play on this set tells (more of questions) the morality hounding a small fishing village that is bound for obscurity. It’s a murky tale that delves into the hearts of the characters, opens it like a frog in a Biology class looking for its intent and explodes. Direction is good and the ensemble, topnotch. I have to single out Gawad Buhay! nominee Jonathan Tadioan (“Pamantasang Hirang”) for the intensity and efficiency.
SET E: LIFE IS A TRAP
“Paigan” by Liza Magtoto (Playwright) and Sigrid Bernardo (Director)
Partly historical, “Paigan” (a corruption of the name David Fagen) tells a story on racism and nationalism, and a mix-up of the two. The topic may not be as appealing or engaging as the others but it’s serviceable. I would always for for Liza Magtoto’s “Agnoia” anytime.
“Hate Restaurant” by David Finnigan (Playwright) and J. Victor Villareal (Director)
This is the second play I’ve seen for Virgin Labfest 5 that is not written by a Filipino. It’s another black comedy told inside a restaurant kitchen, plagued by different peculiar and sometimes-loveable characters. There’s a timid chef, a nerdy waiter, a manager who just killed a rat and some very demanding customers. All in all, the play is decent enough. I just have this sentiment that I may not be getting the Aussie humor/language that goes with it.
“Isang Araw sa Karnabal” by Nicolas Pichay (Playwright) and Chris Millado (Director)
It’s probably one of the most pleaser plays for me among all the entries. It’s a story of two people with desaparecido relatives who meet up inside a theme park. They talk about their love (and the blandness of it) for each other, their future, heartbreaks and their longing for the long lost loved ones. The stage is equipped with a floor landscaped with “grass” and with just a bench in the middle. As the couple tried a shooting booth and a horror roller coaster ride, the zen-like stage is surprisingly utilized into something dynamic and efficient “theme park”. Thanks to its direction, sound design and lighting. Skyzx Labastilla and Paolo O’Hara are both brilliant. The play’s definitely a must-watch.
SET F: VIRGIN LABFEST 4 REVISITED
“Ang Kalungkutan ng Reyna” by Floy Quintos (Playwright/Director)
This Palanca-winning play accounts the last harrowing days of the lady President turned dictator in an attempt to revamp her strong image. She hired an elite fashion designer/stylist to pave the way. The cast includes the great Shamaine Centenara-Buencamino and actor/director Tuxqs Rutaquio as the leads. I can say that it’s well directed and some scenes are tremendously funny but I find the whole play’s running time too short for its worth.
“Uuwi ang Nanay Kong si Darna” by Job Pagsibigan (Playwright) and Cats Racsag (Director)
There’s nothing really much about this play (if you can call this as such). It tells animatingly how an OFW mom is comparable to Darna, complete with colorful costumes and some decent action sequences that are very eye candy for the kids. The “play” is short and sweet at 15 minutes.
“Ang Bayot, Ang Meranao, at ang Habal-Habal sa Isang Nakakabagot na Paghihintay sa Isang Kanto sa Lanao del Norte” by Rogelo Braga (Playwright) and Nick Olanka (Director)
As compared to Ogie Braga’s “Ang Pagdating ng Barbaro”, this play is contrastingly relaxed and lighter. It tells a story of an unusual meeting of the loud and gay Bambi and a Muslim named Hamid, their endless outwitting and their escape away from social hypocrisy. Underneath the clever conversation is a thesis that homosexuals and Muslims share the same plight on discrimination and acceptance. This one’s also a pleaser, thanks to the one-liners. My only comment is that the play is prone to excessive ad-libs that might ruin the momentum. Just the same, it’s enjoyable. Both Joey Paras and Arnold Reyes are exceptional.
SIDETRIP: Introduced only this year is a series of unannounced new plays called “Fragments (X Marks the Spot)”. Unanounced, meaning, some portions inside the CCP will be used as a stage without you recognizing that it’s a part of a play. I experienced one at the cafeteria wherein a female staff was found to be too annoying when asking for orders. She repeatedly asked, “Ano, oorder ka ba ng kanin?” and she did that to almost every customer. Then she broke down at the kitchen, smashing some plates, I supposed. A big mascot “X” came in and a monologue (I think it’s Vincent Tañada’s “Mga Kuwentong Balic-Balic”) ensued. Awesome!