REVIEW: Ghosts in the toilet, skeletons in the closet

Ghosts in the toilet, skeletons in the closet 
By Walter Ang
October 25, 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer

THIS Halloween, you can opt to explore haunted, dingy bathrooms or you can just take a trip to a darkened theater situated in the basement of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Nope, no cobwebs and coffins here, only Tanghalang Pilipino's staging of "Bakeretta (Ghost Operetta)," a Filipino translation of a Japanese play that deals with an amateur theater company as they rehearse a ghost (bake) story "The Ghost in the Toilet."

In this horror-comedy-musical-drama, fans of Japanese horror movies like "Ring" and "The Grudge" will certainly enjoy the way this production pokes fun at the recently popular movie genre. For example, a gaggle of Sadako-wannabees make an appearance, however, they share the stage with one of our very own manananggals. In a recent preview held at lighting designer Shoko Matsumoto's Sinag Arts Studio, even the pacing seemed to mimic the halting rhythm of a suspense-thriller.

As the play was originally written in a provincial dialect of Japan, this Manila production transplants the action to Cebu in an attempt to retain the rustic flavor of the characters in a (mostly) Tagalog translation by Liza Magtoto.

Humor and laughs come as the strong and talented ensemble cast ham it up to effectively portray the not-so- strong and not-so-talented fledgling "actors" go through the paces of their hokey musical numbers (choreographed by Novy Bereber) and overly melodramatic scenes. It's a treat to see the entire cast switch effortlessly from comedy to serious drama and back again.

The audience watches the "rehearsals" unfold to find out if there really is a ghost in the toilet. Along the way, they see how the amateur theater group grapples with their own personal skeletons-in- the-closet: specters of mistrust, fading memories of the past, phantoms of disillusionment, the ephemeral nature of hope, and the ever-present and hanging shadow of death.

At the core of it all is a love triangle brilliantly threshed out by Ronnie Lazaro (to be alternated by Nonie Buencamino), Irma Adlawan-Marasigan, and Mailes Kanapi. These three theater veterans anchor the show with their highly nuanced and sensitive characterizations.

Playwright Chong Wishing flew in specially to direct this staging as part of the commemoration of 50 years of Philippine-Japan friendship, with support from the Japan Foundation Manila Office and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The regular run will be held at the intimate Tanghalang Huseng Batute (Studio Theater) of the CCP from November 10 to 26.

For details, call Tanghalang Pilipino at 832-3661 or 832-1125 loc. 1620 or 1621.