REVIEW: Theaterbatoring "God of Carnage"

thoughts on atlantis productions' "god of carnage"
by walter ang
july 24, 2012 

Image from the interwebs.
morag cook's set design for "god of carnage" (for state theatre company of south australia's 2010 production) features a swath of red floor-to-ceiling wall treatment that merges with a swath of wall-to-wall red carpet, evoking a waterfall of blood flowing continuously into a river.

for the 2012 manila production by atlantis productions, lawyn cruz's set design shows a slight reconfiguration of the wall treatment into a framed large-scale red wall installation comprised of tightly packed blocks in varying degrees of thickness.  things do not flow so easily here, it seems to say.  instead, it's now choppy waters in a pool. the carpet is also now a square in the middle of the room. blood trapped in a boxing ring.

and that's how the evening's assaults are foreshadowed in this staging of yasmina reza's hilarious play of two couples who meet to resolve a physical altercation between their respective sons: things are going to get bloody. and no one will escape.

(a side observation on the "internationalness" of this production: it's written by a french playwright, translated into english by an english (as in, united kingdom) playwright--with an adjusted version for the usa (versus uk) audience.  the manila production uses the usa version, has a set design reconfigured from an australian production, has filipinos and one singaporean in the cast, has just had its run in manila, and will run in singapore.  but i digress.)

alan (art acuña) and annette (menchu lauchengco-yulo)'s son had hit michael (adrian pang) and veronica (lea salonga)'s son with a stick. the latter couple invites the former couple over to their home.

if you didn't know anything about the rest of the play, the set design and the first few lines about missing teeth and exposed nerves should clue you in nicely. the introductory scoring, an orchestral version of black eyed peas' "i gotta feeling" is also a funny, ironic clue. tonight's gonna be a good night? we'll see.

the set-up of two couples in a living room recalls edward albee's "who's afraid of virginia woolf," though this play is far less daunting and there are no menacing revelations (only a lot of menacing posturing). it also makes one think of oscar wilde's "the importance of being earnest," only in this play, being earnest isn't what's most important. instead, director bobby garcia plays off the text's farcical aspects and highlights the physical comedy bits.  the loudest audience reaction was for stage business involving a body fluid ending up on stage. and its tenuous clean-up.

clipped pace
garcia's guided the actors through a clipped pace as they plow through their lines, punches, and punchlines at around 80 minutes.  the cast are adept in their roles, though it is pang (michael), with his spot-on timing, who milks the funny parts and gets the loudest, longest, and most laughs. (though, a small quibble, the lead-up to a line where he asserts his inner caveman is a bit wanting, leaving the potentially iconic line somewhat of a throw away.)

acuña imbues his role with a slight brooklyn inflection that stays consistent and he maintains alan's aloof disinterest of the evening's proceedings.  lauchengco-yulo looks like she's secretly having the most fun among the four actors, spending much of the time portraying annette in various degrees of physical and mental distress.  salonga's straightforward attack on her role anchors the room together since, as veronica, she is the evening's primary antagonist-who-just-won't-quit.

it's so easy to hate the four characters. so easy to agree and disagree with them all. and so easy laugh at them all. but then, isn't that always the case when one watches a comedy of manners? we laugh because what we see on stage is true, we laugh because the ones we see onstage are us.

the way we are
it is because of this relatability to the characters--while it would be easy to describe the characteristics that define them (alan is a snarky, brutish lawyer. veronica is an arrogant, self-righteous writer. michael is a passive-aggressive business owner and macho man-wannabe. annette is, well, she's drunk.)--that we are led to think about how much of the way we describe these characters, and who we side with during the play, is ultimately a reflection (and admission?) of the way we see things, the way we think, the way we are.

because in this play, as the characters espouse, expound and then skewer their opinions of each other, themselves, and the world, we're not sure who to like or hate anymore towards the end.  is the laywer really snarky? or he's just telling it like it is? is the writer really self-righteous? or is she really right? (you realize midway that the evening, really, is a conversation between these two and the other two are just kind of comic relief.)

reza lets her characters touch on notions of (springing from the dialogue about teeth) veneers and exposed nerves. the roles we are expected to play out in public versus what we really think and feel, the way we see things and the way other people see us, and how big (like that wall installation) these roles can become if we let them.

in this living room, we bear witness to reza's contemplations and iterations on class versus classy, of stereotypes and archetypes and the immovable truths beneath them, of gender roles, of marital roles, of parenting roles, of nice guys/gals and assholes.  reza's lines and ideas, from desserts to lethal medications, from fights in a playground close by to genocide in a land far away, at turns, magnify the inconsequential and trivialize the important, and questions everything in between.

in these arguments reza has constructed, she builds momentum and suspense, and then constantly interrupts the proceedings in order to set up another round. the elliptical looping allows us to see more onstage comedy, and it's also purposefully telling us, oh so slyly, that this is the kind of circular, unending ridiculousness we seem to be trapped in, by choice or circumstance, in our lives. ("and we'll do it all again," sings the black eyed peas.)

the evening goes on and we laugh at the shenanigans on stage. then reza drops the bomb with a poignant scene that makes the characters (and, okay, maybe us, the audience, too) realize that, when the god of carnage pays us a visit, no matter what it is you're fighting about and how you're going on about it, the worth of the fight notwithstanding, sometimes you need remember why you're fighting and/or who you're fighting for in the first place.  and before the scene crosses the line into melodrama, reza knocks it out it with a final punchline. and it sure packs a funny and ironic wallop.

atlatnis productions and singapore repertory theatre's "god of carnage" runs in singapore nov. 6-18, 2012 at dbs arts centre, 20 merbau road, singapore. tickets available at

Campus theater groups bare 2012-2013 lineup

Campus theater groups bare 2012-2013 lineup
By Walter Ang
July 23, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Noli Me Tangere: The Opera
For its 37th season, Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas opens with a restaging of last season’s “Noli Me Tangere: The Opera,” a retelling of José Rizal’s novel with music composed by National Artist for Music Felipe Padilla de Leon and libretto by National Artist for Visual Arts Guillermo Tolentino.

Directed by DUP artistic director Alexander Cortez with music direction by Camille Lopez Molina, “Noli” opened July 18 and runs until Aug. 12. It serves as DUP’s tribute to Padilla de Leon’s birth centennial.

This is followed by Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull/Ang Tagak,” Sept. 19-Oct. 7. “The play is an intimate study of unrequited love and human folly,” says Cortez.

Directed by Tony Mabesa, the play will have English performances using David Mamet’s translation and Filipino performances using National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio’s translation.

Umaaraw, Umuulan Kinakasal ang Tikbalang
Meanwhile, UP Playwright’s Theater, DUP’s series that stages new works by Filipino playwrights, will restage its children’s play from last season, “Umaaraw, Umuulan Kinakasal ang Tikbalang,” on Nov. 21-Dec. 9.

“This play is a reminder of the richness of our folk literature and the importance of taking care of the environment,” says Cortez.

The play is adapted by Rody Vera from Inquirer contributing writer Gilda Cordero Fernando’s children’s short story “The Magic Circle” (serialized in PDI’s Learning Section in 2009) with direction by José Estrella.

The season concludes with the world premiere of Floy Quintos’ “Collection,” a black comedy about fashion and art. To be directed by Dexter Santos, the play runs Feb. 13-Mar. 3, 2013.

Dulaang UP is under the University of the Philippines’ Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts, which offers certificate and degree programs in Theater Arts. The group also stages its students’ thesis productions under its Dulaang Laboratoryo series throughout the year.

All productions will be staged at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Quezon City. (Call tel. 9261349, 9818500 loc. 2449 or 4337840.)

Harlequin Theater Guild
Si Tonying at ang Mahiwagang Aklat ng Kasaysayan
De La Salle University’s Harlequin Theater Guild opens its 46th season in August with “DuLa Salle,” its annual festival of plays. This year’s “DuLa Salle” will feature the staging of four plays based on short stories by Genaro Gojo-Cruz in one show.

“Two of the plays portray the hardships and struggles of an employee, while the other two depict life on the streets. This production will dwell mostly on social problems existing in our country,” says HTG artistic director Romualdo “Raffy” Tejada.

In October, the group will restage last season’s “Si Tonying at ang Mahiwagang Aklat ng Kasaysayan” by José Victor Torres, a play about a young boy’s quest to fix history after it has been mixed up.

The season concludes in March 2013 with HTG’s staging of “The Sky over Dimas,” adapted by Tim Dacanay from the novel by Vicente Groyon, about Rafael Torrecarion’s return to his hometown in Negros Occidental and the “web of long-buried secrets that preserve and threaten the foundations of his family.”

Productions will be staged at venues in De La Salle University, Manila. (Call tel. 0917-8062891 or

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DLSU concludes centennial with performances

DLSU concludes centennial with performances
By Walter Ang
June 11, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

De La Salle University concludes its centennial school year (2011-2012) with the inauguration of a new eco-friendly building and with the staging of two productions.

On June 15, the Henry Sy Sr. Centennial Hall will have its blessing. That same day, there will be a performance of "Cultura Verde" at the building's lobby, a showcase featuring different student and faculty dance, chorale and orchestra groups from all 17 Lasallian schools.

The day ends with a concert, "Lasallianation," directed by alumnus singer and TV personality Randy Santiago. Theater actors Gian Magdangal and Carlo Orosa are just two of several guest alumni performers.

Designed by Leandro Locsin Partners with interiors by Ascuncion-Berenguer, the building is named for retail magnate Henry Sy Sr., whose donation jumpstarted its construction.

Symbolizing the university's "continuous and growing role in Philippine education," the building's design has been anchored on the idea of a "habitable tree." Pillars punctuate the ground level like tree trunks holding up a canopy and aluminum fins that serve as cladding evoke stylized leaf blades.

"The concept represents the university as nurturing," says DLSU president and chancellor Br. Narciso Erguiza Jr. "As well as showing the university's commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability."

It will be the first academic structure to be rated with the Philippine Green Building Council's Building Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (Berde) standard, a measure of how "environment-friendly" a structure is, similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard developed in the US.

Emphasis was placed on reducing the energy requirements of the building.

Solar panels will be located on the roof to convert sunlight into electricity for the building. Aside from providing a view of Manila Bay, the roof deck features a multipurpose gazebo amid a garden. "It's partially covered with plants to improve the building's insulation."

The building will have a rainwater collecting system that stores rainwater to be used for flushing toilets. "Used water from sinks will also be collected and treated for reuse in toilets."

To control the building's microclimate more efficiently, windows will have double-glazed glass which reduces the heat transfer between the building's internal and external environments.

The aluminum fins lining the building's sides that face the sun's path are not merely decorative. They're positioned to redirect diffused daylight into the building while reducing the building's direct heat gain. "It will allow us to use less artificial lighting during the day."

The 15-story structure has earmarked most of its floors for a learning commons, which will include the university's library and areas for "relaxation and interaction," to serve the university's average 17,000 students, faculty and staff every school year.

The university's library started operations in 1956 with barely 10,000 books. Through the years, it has acquired up to more than 235,000 titles.

It houses a collection of Filipino-American writer Bienvenido Santos's mementos and a mumismatic collection donated by philatelist Felipe Liao that contains items used as currency from the pre-Spanish era until the 1990s.

"The aim is to have one million books in the Learning Commons. There will be 48 small discussion rooms, as well as `quiet rooms,' reading rooms, meeting rooms and even a bean bag area."

In addition, there will be pocket indoor gardens, outdoor reading areas and wide-open spaces. "These areas are meant to support creativity and engage learners to generate new ideas."

The university's registrar's office, admissions office, and accounting and finance office will all be relocated to this building to provide centralized access to students.

"With the Henry Sy Sr. Centennial Hall, we have a new icon that will be another symbol of our commitment to serve as a resource for God and country," says Erguiza. "We look forward to seeing more scholars walk in this hall with passion, energy, and the desire and commitment to national development."

Founded in 1911 in Paco before moving to its current location in Malate, the university is the first of 17 schools in the country run by the De La Salle Brothers of the Philippines, a Roman Catholic teaching congregation founded in France by Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle with schools all over the world.

"Cultura Verde" is on June 15, 6 p.m. at the Henry Sy Sr. Centennial Hall; "Lasallianation" is at 8 p.m. at Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium. Call 5244611 loc. 107 or e-mail

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July kicks off Ateneo theater groups' 2012-2013 line-up

July kicks off Ateneo theater groups' 2012-2013 line-up
‘Romeo and Juliet’ in Tagalog by Rolando Tinio goes on stage
By Walter Ang
July 16, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sintang Dalisay
Two student theater groups of Ateneo de Manila University announce their season line-ups for schoolyear 2012-2013.

Tanghalang Ateneo opens its 34th season in August with a restaging of "Sintang Dalisay," an awit (metrical romance poetry using dodesyllabic or 12-syllable verse) version of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" using translations by G.D. Roke and National Artist for Literature Rolando Tinio.

Romeo and Juliet are now Rashiddin and Jamila, star-crossed lovers living in Sempurna, a fictional Islamic community, and fleeing from family and the law to keep their love alive.

Directed by TA artistic director Ricky Abad, the production uses igal, a traditional dance of the indigenous Sama-Bajau people of Mindanao, as its movement and choreography motif.

Sets and costumes designed by National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal, with this production being one of the last works completed by Bernal before his demise last year.

Before its Manila run, the group will perform "Sintang Dalisay" in Minsk, Belarus for the 9th World Congress of the International University Theater Association.  After its run in Manila, there are plans to tour the production in Naga and Baguio, as well as Sarawak, Borneo. "Funds permitting," says Abad.

The group has been invited to perform Suzue Toshiro's "Fireflies," which it staged for its previous season, for the Asia-Pacific Festival of Theater Schools in Taipei in August.

The play, about several characters are on a lonely search for connection and compassion in contemporary Japanese society, is directed by Abad and BJ Crisostomo using the English translation by David Goodman.

In September, TA will stage "4Play," a showcase of directorial works by four recent graduates of the university's Bachelor of Fine Arts Major in Theater Arts (which has concentrations in disciplines such as acting, directing or production design).

The production will feature "Bubbled," a devised work based on Japanese author Haruki Murakami's short story "Silence;" an adaptation of Christopher Durang "An Actor's Nightmare"; "Untitled," an improvisational concept piece based on Jackson Pollock's paintings; and B.J. Crisostomo's allegory "Penitensiya."

The season concludes in January 2013 with the group's staging of "The Conference of the Birds," a play based on a Persian poem.  To be directed by Ron Capdinding, the play is about a nation of birds facing a crisis and learning to conquer the fear that almost ruined their beloved country.

From a previous staging of
Ang Sistema ni Propesor Tuko.
Image from the Interwebs.
Ateneo Enterteyment para sa Tao, Bayan, Lansangan at Diyos (Entablado) opens its 30th season in July with a twinbill of Tomas Remigio's "Mga Santong Tao" and Al Santos' "Ang Sistema ni Propesor Tuko," both comedies.

"'Ang Sistema' is about Professor Tuko's decrepit teaching methods and how his students put a stop to his authoritarian methods," says Entablado artistic director Jethro Tenorio.  "'Santong Tao' is about how Titay outsmarts three powerful suitors."

Directed by Richard "Morny" de Guzman, production design by Martin Malabanan, and lights design by Miyo Sta. Maria.

In January 2013, the group will stage the Ilonggo epic "Labaw Donggon" adapted by Nicanor Tiongson and to be directed by Jerry Respeto.

"This is actually a fragment of a much longer epic 'Hinilawod,'" says Tenorio.  "The hero Labaw Donggon journeys to finding his maiden and battles Saragnayan, the Keeper of Light."

Their season concludes with a street theater festival in February 2013.  The festival will feature a competition between different organizations from inside and outside the university focused on creating plays based on the advocacy in the form Street Theater.

For Tanghalang Ateneo, contact 426-6001 loc. 5427, 0917-856-0787.  For Entablado, contact 0917-829-1714 or

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Wifi Body Independent Contemporary Dance Festival 2012

Wifi Body Independent Contemporary Dance Festival 2012
By Walter Ang
July 9, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Performance from previous Wifi Body
Independent Contemporary Dance Festival
The sixth Wifi Body Independent Contemporary Dance Festival will be held in two cities across Metro Manila: Dance Forum Space (DFS) and University of the Philippines (UP) in Quezon City and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay City.

The festival gathers contemporary dance artists and audiences in a series of performances, workshops and competitions.  This year will also feature a conference for dance scholars.

The festival is organized by Contemporary Dance Network Manila, a group of contemporary dance companies, artists, school-based organizations, critics and institutions promoting contemporary dance in the Philippines.

"This year's theme is 'Aspire for Dance, Aspire to Dance.'," says network chair Angela Lawenko-Baguilat. Baguilat is also festival artistic director, taking over from founding artistic director Myra Beltran.

The name of the festival was created based on the notion of "engaging the public, especially younger audiences, weaned in a digital age. Wifi Body allows everyone to access contemporary dance," she says.

The festival opens with an opening gala, "New Aspirations," at DFS on July 4, featuring performances by Airdance, Chameleon Dance Theater, E-Dance, UP Dance Company, and Lyceum of the Philippines University.

The festival's "IndepenDance" show, focusing on new works, features choreographies by Jed Amihan, Rudolph Segundo ,Jun Saagundo,Ea Torrado in its July 6 DFS show and the works of Elena Laniog, and Christine Crame in its July 13 CCP show.

The festival closes on July 14 with closing gala "Fidelity" at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino in CCP, with performances from Steps Dance Studio, Seven Dance Company, Philippine Ballet Theater, and Ballet Philippines.

The festival has a New Choreographers Competition that allows up-and-coming regional choreographers and dancers who have not yet created any major full-length work to premiere solos or duets.

The semi-finals will be held at DFS July 5 and finals at CCP July 14.

"To reinforce the focus on choreography, no set pieces are allowed to enable audiences and judges to experience the emphasis on the level of dance research in theme, aesthetics, process and its innovative application."

On screen, online, on site
The festival is hosting its third Uncensored Bodies Dance Video Competition to encourage the use of dance in film or the creation of film specifically about dance.

Selected entries will be screened at UP College of Music Mini-Hall and CCP.  The winners of the competition will be announced on July 14.

"Finalist entries will also be uploaded on Youtube so that the Audience Choice Award can be determined via online voting."

There will also be the festival's Dance-on-Site series, performances that are created for non-stage venues or areas.  Previous installments have been performed on escalators, roof decks and driveway ramps of CCP. This year's performances will be held at the lobby of CCP's Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino.

Workshops, conferences
Dance workshops and a conference open to the public will be held at UP.  "UP College of Music has been home to the premiere dance program in the country, nurturing and producing dance leaders for over three decades," says Baguilat, faculty-in-charge of the dance program.

The Wifi Body Conference will be held from July 5-6 at the UP College of Music Mini-Hall with keynote address to be delivered by Basilio Esteban Villaruz, professor emeritus at UP and author of "Walking Through Philippine Theater" (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2012), a three-volume collection of his dance and theater critiques.

"The conference aims to unearth what current dance makers are aspiring to and aspiring for in creating and understanding their art. It will be a platform for dance scholars and practitioners to raise and exchange prevailing issues and concerns of contemporary dance practice."

Papers will be presented by Jose Jay Cruz, Transitopia Contemporary Dance Commune artistic director; Donna Miranda, choreographer and critic; Noel Garovillo, Noel Garovillo Dance Center artistic director, Koronadal; Cher Anabo, freelance visual and kinetic artist, Honolulu; Clarissa Cecilia Mijares, critic and Airdance artist; Joelle Jacinto, critic and Team Dance Studio artist.

Contemporary Dance Workshops will be at the UP Dance Studio July 4-6.  Workshops will be conducted by Donna Miranda, Raul Alcoseba and Gerald Mercado.

Wifi Body Independent Contemporary Dance Festival 6 (2012) runs July 4-6 and July 13-14. Festival passes, day passes and student/senior discounts available. Contact 0917-328-2582 or 0999-881-6800.

Schedule here.

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Philippine Drama Company Sala Theater 2012 season line-up

Sala Theater celebrates founder Naty Crame Rogers’ 90th birthday
By Walter Ang
July 2, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Rehearsals for Panhik Ligaw
Philippine Drama Company  Sala Theater’s (PDCST) 27th season will celebrate the 90th birthday of its founder and artistic director Natividad “Naty” Crame- Rogers.

The season opens with “kaSALAn,” a twin-bill of comedies “Panhik Ligaw” and “Dahil sa Anak” on July 7-8.

“Panhik Ligaw,” directed by Gaby Castillo, is D. Habito’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “The Marriage Proposal.”  

It features Entang, the comic maid of the wealthy Don Sebio, whose tough spinster daughter Talia is being wooed by Kadio, a sickly bachelor who has asthma.

“Dahil sa Anak,” by Julian Cruz Balmaceda and directed by Kenn Cayunda, is about the wealthy Don Arkimedes who is against his son Manuel’s marriage with Rita, a laundry woman’s daughter, despite them already having a child together. Manuel seeks help from his wise uncle Don Cristobal to sway his father’s decision, and from Rita’s strong-willed aunt, Aling Sidora.

The twinbill will be staged at Aming Tahanan Sala Theater, Rogers’ living room transformed into an informal performance area during productions.

In October, the group will stage National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s “Portrait of an Artist as Filipino,” about a pair of spinster sisters dealing with the changes in Old Manila just before World War II.

In December, the group will stage “Naty @ Ninety” to commemorate  Rogers’ continuing legacy to Philippine theater.

Rogers has been creating and teaching theater since her college days under National Artist for Theater Wilfrido Guerrero at University of the Philippines.  She taught at the Philippine Normal College (now Philippine Normal University) where she was part of National Artist for Theater Severino Montano’s Arena Theater. She founded PDCST after retiring from teaching.

Rogers has performed for National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio’s Teatro Filipino and National  Artist for Film Lamberto Avellana’s Barangay Theater Guild.

Rogers wrote “Classical Forms of Theater in Asia,” published by UST Publishing House.

“kaSALAn” runs July 7-8, with shows at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., at the Aming Tahanan Sala Theater, 40 Stella Maris St., Bo. Kapitolyo, Pasig. Call 0917-5691439.

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