'Dark and terrible' character lures Gabs Santos back to the stage

'Dark and terrible' character lures Gabs Santos back to the stage
April 2, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Gabs Santos
After a three-year hiatus, Gabs Santos returns to the stage in Egg Theater Company's (ETC) staging of Martin McDonagh's "The Pillowman," in a Filipino translation by George de Jesus.

Santos will play Katurian, a writer living in a police state who is questioned about his macabre stories that resemble gruesome child murders that have been committed recently.

De Jesus says, "With the coming elections and the incessant specter of dictatorships and martial law, this production reminds us that there is a fine line between the freedom of an individual to tell a story and its impact on the security of society."

The play's use of suspense and "unreliable" testimonies from its characters won it the 2004 Olivier Award for Best New Play in the United Kingdom and the 2004-2005 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best New Foreign Play in the United States.

Santos hasn't been seen on stage in a while as he'd focused on his work as a producer in the advertising industry.

"It's a completely different set of responsibilities and, unfortunately, not the kind of thing where I can clock out at 6 p.m., head over to rehearsals and have my head fully in a scene," he says.

However, the stage continues to call out to him. "Acting is not something that I can put on the shelf for too long. It's a huge part of who I am and what I love."

Back to work
Santos says he feels great being in rehearsals again.

"I am with very intelligent and generous co-actors. Rehearsals for this play have been a process of discovery as a group."

In "The Pillowman," he works with Acey Aguilar, Paul Jake Paule and ETC members Renante Bustamante and Paolo O'Hara. Paule and O'Hara alternate as Katurian's brother; Aguilar and Bustamante play Katurian's interrogators.

Santos grew up watching Repertory Philippines (Rep) productions at the defunct William Shaw Theater in Shangri-La Plaza Mall.

"My mom would take us to see their season productions. I recall watching their production of Neil Simon's 'The Good Doctor' and wanting to jump on stage and join the cast."

Later on in high school, another inspiration prompted him to finally join his first audition. "I was in third year. Two friends and I were hanging out after dismissal. We saw a couple of cute girls enter the auditorium. On the door was an announcement that auditions were being held for the theater org's next show. We went for it and I got accepted."

He's done work with Rep ("Disney's Mulan," "Fiddler on the Roof"), Triumphant People's Evangelistic Theater Society ("N.O.A.H. (No Ordinary Aquatic Habitat)," "Little Mermaid") and Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP) ("Lulu," English version).

Turning point
His being cast as Katurian, a mature character, in Filipino, marks a departure from the kinds of roles Santos used to be cast in.

Though he's been in Filipino productions like Philippine Educational Theater Association's (Peta) "Bona" and DUP's "Orosman at Zafira," he's mostly identified with English productions. Also, with his large eyes and youthful demeanor, he'd been mostly cast in male ingenue or comic relief roles.

"I think I've been away from theater long enough that audiences have no idea what to expect from me," he says with a laugh.

"But seriously, characters and stories like this are among the reasons I fell in love with acting in the first place. Katurian's journey is dark and terrible and I can only hope to give it the telling it deserves."

Direction is by George de Jesus, with lighting design by Joseph Matheu, and music and animation by Joee Mejias.

"The Pillowman," in Filipino translation, runs April 8-24, at Pineapple Lab Gallery, 6071 Palma St., Bgy. Poblacion, Makati. Contact +63-917-844-0520 or like EggTheaterCompany on Facebook.

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