Tag Archives: stage play review

Review: Kung Paano Maghiwalay

kpm logoTitle: Kung Paano Maghiwalay
Cast: Stella Cañete-Mendoza, Juliene Mendoza, Renante Bustamante, Carlo Cruz, Rachelle Gimpes, Mara Paulina Marasigan, Victor Medina, Sheena Ramos, Paul Jake Paule, Gabs Santos, Sarina Sasaki, Lian Silverio, Andrea Tatad, Floyd Tena, Affy Varona, Andrei Vegas, Teetin Villanueva
Writer/Director: George de Jesus III
Producer: The Egg Theater Company
Duration: 1.5 hours

Review In A Nutshell:
Kung Paano Maghiwalay, despite its ominous title, is an earnest and witty play about love, heartbreak and the pain of separation; something that must be experienced, like most relationships, not just once but as much as one can.

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Disclaimer:
This review may contain spoilers.

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I have found almost everything ever written about love to be true. Shakespeare said, “journeys end in lovers meeting.” Oh, what an extraordinary thought! Personally, I have not experienced anything remotely close to that, but I am more than willing to believe Shakespeare had. I suppose I think about love more than anyone really should. I am constantly amazed by its sheer power to alter and define our lives. It was Shakespeare who also said, “love is blind”. Now that is something I know to be true.

Kate Winslet as Iris Simpkins
The Holiday

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As I continue my quest to watch more local theatrical productions this year, I found myself watching Kung Paano Maghiwalay, a full-length play that piqued my interest because I learned that Aiza Seguerra used this to propose to Liza Diño. Hmm… A play that showcases heartbreak and separation… Hmm…

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Fifth play for the year! 🙂

I knew nothing about the play aside from that trivia, its ominous title and one cast member (who I will reveal later) that I have wanted to see on stage for quite some time. When I sat on the front row during its opening weekend, I had no expectations but I was prepared to cry my eyes out. Almost two hours after, I left Pineapple Lab with a yearning to see it again, which I did. Did I cry? Yes but not just for reasons most people would think of.

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This board full of sticky notes containing “hugot” lines to your ex welcomes you as you wait for the play to start. There were extra sticky notes and pens encouraging theater goers to add to it. This was taken during the last show; it was sparse during the opening weekend.

Vicarious Love

At the core of Kung Paano Maghiwalay is love, heartbreak and the pain of separation. The play was told in vignettes featuring characters that were interconnected and narrated in a non-linear format. Its two acts were markedly contrast: the first half’s staging was bright and colorful yet the words were riddled with hurt and sadness while the last half was bleak and gray yet the exchange was open and positive.

Kung Paano Maghiwalay showcased all forms of love – romantic, LGBT, friendship, family – except one I’m most familiar with: unrequited love. It made sense really since there’s no separation from that kind of love, but it’s painful nonetheless. With that pain, I was able to find bits and pieces of my own failed love stories, of what if’s and regrets, in the play. I cried especially during its pivotal moments but surprisingly found myself laughing for most of it. The play’s ominous title may be feared by those who have loved and lost, that it may open old wounds. I can tell you this: there’s healing in realization. Also, hope springs eternal especially with love.

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George de Jesus III (standing, 3rd from right) and entire cast of Kung Paano Maghiwalay, from The Egg Theater Company’s Facebook page.

An Earnest Portrayal

Kung Paano Maghiwalay succeeded in its earnest portrayal of love in all its forms and stages. George de Jesus III created a gem in this play; it was bittersweet, funny and relatable. There was ease in the transition between its dramatic and comedic parts. There were no dull moments and the reaction from the audience was sincere. The stage is minimal yet fluid especially with its set pieces. I especially loved those boxes filled with graffiti of “hugot” lines. The music used was a nice backdrop and it blended well with each scene. Since I watched it twice, I was able to notice some changes (most glaring would be the bed) but these were minor enough and did not take anything away from it.

Although I saw the play twice, I almost had the same roster of actors. Almost in the sense that I saw two different actors portraying Ferdz: Floyd Tena during my first, Renante Bustamante during my second. However, what I liked about them was their heartfelt performance. I also loved that the actors were spontaneous and quick to improvise when needed (especially with the drinks). While each actor shone on stage, there were four who stood out for me:

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Teetin Villanueva played Lou, a lesbian trying to maintain her composure as she finally goes through the last stage of her separation with Kat. Her portrayal of a calculated, control-freak individual with an appointment-driven life had the right balance of restraint and emotion. Teetin was able to beautifully navigate through Lou’s facets: Kat’s long-time partner, Ferdz and Hector’s friend, Dino’s sister, and Ben and Anita’s daughter. It reminded me of Anna Torv’s Olivia Dunham during Fringe Season 1 and 2 (if you haven’t seen this series, I highly suggest you do so now). I was looking forward to seeing her on stage, having missed her most recent performances (both musicals), and she did not disappoint.

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Lian Silverio was another standout for me. He played Erwin, a gay who easily fell in love with Ferdz during one of the play’s bleakest moments. His parts were essentially one of, if not, the funniest. Lian portrayed Erwin effortlessly; he was a treat to watch. There was one point during my second viewing that he almost broke character but he quickly caught himself and improvised as if it was all part of the script. I loved those moments as it showcased how difficult stage acting can be since there are no retakes.

juliene and stella

If you were one of those who left the play with red eyes like me, blame it on theater veterans and real-life married couple, Stella Cañete-Mendoza and Juliene Mendoza. Stella and Juliene played Anita and Ben respectively, a couple married for more than two decades, who found themselves questioning their commitment to each other, if it was still bound by love and not just obligation, and still scarred with the vestiges of the latter’s attempt to be with another woman. Among all the play’s vignettes, this is the one I can relate to the most since I have parents who have been married for forty years and exhibit the usual behaviors seen in most old couples their age. When I first saw the play, I think I did an almost ugly cry during the play’s climax that I was so glad I wore waterproof mascara. As soon as I thought that I was safe from a cry fest, there came another one in the end. Remember watching Jollibee’s hugot videos, Vow and Date? That kind of pain. Stella and Juliene were so amazing that I had to tell them after the play, the second time I watched, I loved them both and I blame them for my tears.

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George de Jesus III addressing a full theater during its last show.

At the play’s last curtain call, the audience were treated with an announcement of a re-run! This is good news for those who have yet to see it (and maybe even those who would like to see it again). If you want to watch an earnest and witty play about love and relationships, heartbreak and the pain of separation, go see Kung Paano Maghiwalay. Take it from someone who has seen it twice; it is worth your while.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Two Cents:
Catch the play when it returns next year, on February 2018 no less. Not sure where The Egg Theater Company will stage it but if it still going to be at Pineapple Lab, it’ll be cool since I love venues with an indie feel. Just prepare your hearts to be broken and re-built at the same time.

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

Images featured here can be found in The Egg Theater Company’s Facebook Page. Other images featured are my own.

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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.