Dulaang Talyer tweaks two plays

Dulaang Talyer tweaks two plays 
By Walter Ang
June 27, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dulaang Talyer is certainly revved up to take on the theater scene this year. This theater company's purring along smoothly like a well oiled car with its performances so far. It recently showcased Tagalog translations of a well known Columbian fictionist's short stories in "Mga Kwento Ni Gabriel Garcia Marquez."

Herbert Go directed mostly Philippine High School for the Arts alumni in this trilogy of short plays, performed at the CCP Rehearsal Hall. The show began with a children's play "Isang Napakatandang Lalaking May Higanteng Pakpak" and ended with "Ang Pinakamakisig na Nalunod sa Buong Daidig". Both these plays took off from the author's magical realism style and had a light and surreal, dreamy feel to them.

The second play though, "Makikitawag Lang Ako", was suspenseful and occasionally frightening. It reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode I saw as a child where a teenage girl was trapped inside a department store after closing hours. This play had its protagonist, Maria Cervantes, trapped mistakenly as a patient in a mental hospital. A dark comedy if I ever saw one, you laugh at all the comedic bits, but you're unsure if it's okay to laugh. At the back of your mind, you wonder if she'll ever escape as the remainder of the play unfolds.

A revelation from "Makikitawag" was Mylene Dizon look-a-like actor Kristine Balmes who essayed six different characters. Quick costume changes kept the audience on their toes as they witness her change again and again. Her ambulance driver, with the afro wig and the deadpan face, was the most hilarious. But it was her buck toothed Herculina that elicited the most response, laughter and revolt among others.

The lighting design was wanting but maybe because the rehearsal hall was not their originally intended venue. The evening, however, sustained the intimate mood suited for the material.

Light to Heavy
Paul Morales took the driver's seat in another production as he directed Australian playwright Andrew Bovell's "Speaking in Tongues." This was a turn off the light and comedic road as the material was decidedly edgier and more adult in tone compared to "Maikling Kwento."

Produced in cooperation with the Australian Embassy in celebration of their Centenary of Federation, the play was initially shown in Sanctum*Unmasct bar at the Intramuros. We were able to catch the run in the Australian Embassy in Makati. The play, having won the Australian Writers Guild Award in 1997 for Best New Play, is a novel intertwining of several subplots. Audiences can compare it to the non-linear treatment of Quentin Tarantino's movie "Pulp Fiction."

The play starts off with the story of two couple who cheat on each other with each other. Sounds confusing in a way, but a treat to watch as the couples interact and their lives intertwine. The first four characters talk of their encounters with other individuals, and these individuals eventually become the protagonists in the second act.

In the tangential stories that unravel from one to the other, the same four actors portray the nine different characters throughout the play. It's always fun for the audience to see an actor perform double roles, like Mailes Kanapi's mousy housewife Sonia in the first act transform into a loudmouthed, bitchy Valerie in the second act.

While this company does not usually perform in English, this performance shows language is not a considerable roadblock. Filipino audiences are used to theater companies importing material from America and Europe. It's refreshing to see a play brought over from a much closer neighbor. Perhaps this could start a new trend in the theater scene.

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