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Review: Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major

16174525_228912500901520_6292803876118760556_nTitle: Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major
Cast: Crispin Pineda, Reymund Domingo, Angeli Bayani, JC Santos, Jackie Lou Blanco, Cherry Pie Picache, Ross Pesigan, Joel Saracho
Writer: Chris Millado
Director: Andoy Ranay
Producer: SUGID Productions Inc.
Duration: 2.5 hours

Review In A Nutshell:
Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major was sublime. It was successful in its intent to deliver a poignant tale about Martial Law in five acts. It was worth every peso and it has definitely proven itself to be “necessary theater”, something rarely seen in this day and age.

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Earlier this year, I tweeted this…

I’m making good on this when I watched Buwan at Baril sa Eb (E-Flat) Major last February 3 (Saturday), during its 3:00 p.m. show. A re-staging of Chris Millado’s play which he wrote in 1984, the production featured some of the best and the brightest talents in the industry. This is also the first play staged by SUGID Productions Inc.

Directed by Andoy Ranay, Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major was branded “necessary theater” by some critics as it highlighted stories based on real-life individuals whose lives were affected, victimized and destroyed by Martial Law:

  • Act One featured two siblings, Magsasaka and Manggagawa, who crossed paths in the middle of Lakabayan in May 1984.
  • Act Two showcased the story of Babaeng Itawis, who found herself in an overcrowded seminary in Cagayan Valley after a military operation swept through Barrio Balitok, and a Pari who was attending to Manila-based reporters.
  • Act Three zeroed in on a Socialite, part of a negotiating panel for the Quezon Rotonda indignation rally, who was rehearsing as she prepares to meet a general to secure a permit.
  • Act Four brought an Asawa who was asked to identify and secure the body of her husband in the municipality of Santo Rosario, Nueva Ecija.
  • Act Five was staged in a detachment office, wherein a Pulis dragged an Estudyante who broke curfew and suspected that the latter was part of the movement to overthrow the government.

As I publish this post, Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major completed staging its 15th and 16th shows. Even if it’s been more than 24 hours since I’ve seen it, I still keep thinking about it.

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First play for 2017! Here we go.

The Past In Present Time

Before I entered the Yuchengo Auditorium, I knew that Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major would be a play about Martial Law. Coming in 30 minutes early, it made sense that the venue was at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center. There was a small museum beside the auditorium which showcased a lot of pictures, milestones and memorabilia about that time in Philippine history. I like museums so this was a treat while waiting for the show to start. What I didn’t expect was the museum helped set the context for the play. It forced me to remember what it was like then (I was in grade school when the first People Power Revolution happened) and found myself connecting, mirroring these events with what’s happening lately.

While the venue would seem out of way and it’s not where plays are usually staged (it’s about two blocks from the MRT Quezon Avenue station, northbound side), it would’ve not been effective if it were done anywhere else. It felt like an off-Broadway production. The 100-seater auditorium had an intimate feel and one can sense the connection between the actors and its audience. It reminded me of that scene in La La Land, Mia’s one-man play. Sitting in that auditorium felt like home to me.

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A collage of images taken during the exclusive preview of the play to the press. Photos taken by Rome Jorge c/o Rappler. Read their review in this link.

The True Test Of An Actor

My first exposure to acting as an art form was in film and TV. The first film I have ever watched was The Sound of Music; the first TV show was Sesame Street. In the Philippine context, my first film and TV show were both of Dolphy’s: John and Marsha, and Facifica Falayfay. I always mused at how tough these actors were as it is not easy to inhibit a character, whether created or inspired by a real person. I knew that first hand when I played the role of a mother in a high school stage production of Sa Ngalan ng Ama, a play written by Palanca Awardee, Roberto Jose De Guzman. Imagine a 14-year old playing a mother whose rebel leader son was killed by a military operation led by her five-star general husband. Hard, isn’t it?

While I managed to give that role justice (I think), it took a lot from me. I remembered not being able to eat well because I had to look tired, frustrated and scared. It was also the first time I said “putangina”. I never acted since then but it didn’t reduce my love for stage plays. It was nurtured further during college, when I would spend my days in UP Diliman’s halls, watching plays being staged by groups like Dulaang UP. With this, my appreciation and respect for theater actors grew, especially at a time where acting was muddled by manufactured talents who got in by looks and luck.

The actors that I watched in Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major were perhaps among the best I’ve seen to date. Each actor who took stage connected with the audience and owned their performance. However, there were a few who broke my heart:

15977157_224061104719993_5222921650186272371_nThe last time I’ve seen Cherry Pie Picache was a year ago, in On The Wings Of Love, as Tita Jack. In all of her TV and film appearances, I admire her innate sincerity when she connects with the character she is playing. Her eyes say it all; it is pure heart and expression. Within the first 10 seconds she came on stage, I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. And boy, I did.

15977621_224063651386405_1033183816080048776_nThe power that Jackie Lou Blanco wielded on the stage was a force to be reckoned with. One can easily say that her looks make her a shoo-in as the Socialite but the range of emotions she showed was unbelievable. The audience was amused and enamored but became broken in the end. While every act earned a thundering applause, hers, I believe, received the loudest.

15936463_221949591597811_8358579847779927075_oJC Santos makes a homecoming to his first love, theater, and it became no wonder to me why his star shined bright in Till I Met You. This is an actor who is absolutely passionate about his craft. He bared his heart and soul on that stage as a young priest who lost his joie de vivre and found it again through a woman who suffered a great loss. Having seen him in some of his other work — Forever Sucks, Basaan, Single/Single, Sakaling Hindi Makarating — he has proven his versatility and his range in this play. I’m happy to say that I look forward to seeing more of this talented, quadruple-threat (he can act, dance, sing, model) in the future.

15936599_221952931597477_2333829557277386832_oAngeli Bayani blew me away as Babaeng Itawis. The rest of the audience may be waiting on JC Santos’ Pari to translate the Itawis language but not for me. I heard Ilocano interspersed with another language, which I think was Ibanag. I cannot speak Ilocano but I can understand it; the maternal side of my family hails from Ilocos Sur. The moment she expressed her anguish at her father’s brutal death, I was gone. I could not stop my tears from falling. Here’s hoping that Iloilo is streamed somewhere (iFlix maybe) because she was amazing.

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The only picture I took before the play started because cellphones may distract the actors. This was understandable. Plus, I was seated in the front row.

The Proof Is In The Pudding

Staging a play requires a lot of hardwork, teamwork and patience. It leaves no room for mistakes — no repeats, no retakes — and theater enthusiasts can be brutal towards plays that are half-baked. Despite encountering some challenges in its re-staging, Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major is proof that minimal can be powerful. It only had eight actors, two musicians and a few yet utterly flexible set pieces, but it didn’t fall short of its impact.

Everything about Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major was sublime: from the direction of Andoy Ranay and the performance of the eight actors to the sounds of the guitar and cielo punctuating each act. It was successful in its intent to deliver a poignant tale about Martial Law. It was worth every peso, worth the trip to Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center, and it has definitely proven itself to be “necessary theater”, something rarely seen in this day and age.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Two Cents:
For the love of all things holy, please watch Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major. The play will be staging its last eight (8) shows this week, February 9-12. Your support and generosity may help SUGID Productions Inc. to bring this to the provinces and expose more people to stage plays. For ticket inquiries, you may call Ticket World at 891-9999 or check their website (www.ticketworld.com.ph) or directly through SUGID Productions Inc. at (0917) 845-6200.

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Disclaimer:
This is not a sponsored blog post. Like my other reviews, I purchased a ticket and saw the play.

Some of the information (key facts about the stage play) were gleaned from the souvenir program, which I purchased for Php 100.00 from the registration booth.

Most of the images featured here can be found in SUGID Productions Inc.’s Facebook Page. Other images featured, unless credited, are my own.

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