Last night I saw Philippine Educational Theater Association‘s 41st season closing play, Saan Ba Tayo Ihahatid ng Disyembre?, Tony Perez’s play to close his second trilogy of plays. This is my first theater play for the year, and it was a jarring start, to say it mildly.
The set was minimal but surreal. Colors were limited to black and white, with red for emphasis. There was a hole at stage right where one of the characters just popped out from time to time. And there was a small pool of water at the middle, not apparent till the last act of the play. The central motif was an Advent wreath. The central table was uneven, taller at an end.
The set was designed to emphasize the surrealness of the story itself. The first part of the play (just before the interval) can confuse most viewers, but this confusion is necessary to drive home the point of the play. The second part brings clarity to the confusion of the first part, a dramatic twist to end the story.
The story is heavy and serious; the play is heavy on dialogue. Humor is scattered throughout the play, bringing some light moments to an otherwise serious scenes.
The actors that night did well, as the alternating characters can be tough to play out. Most of these alternating parts happen in the same scene, adding challenge to the already tough dialogue. Alison Segarra as Isa Pang Babae, playing alternately as Angelique and Miriam, spoke clearly on some parts but there were times when her lines were unclear for the hearing, specially when mouthing scientific verbiage. Angeli Bayani as Babae was wonderful, mataray when needed, frail and weak when needed. She conveyed the role of conflicted lover very well.
Lex Marcos startled me when he first appeared on stage. I thought I saw Edu Manzano! Anyway, his was another challenging, dual personality role, and the second part was specially a killer (though he did get to lie down for around 10 minutes he he). His voice was clear enough though there were several instances of unclear dialogue and flubbed lines. Jack Yabut exuded confidence with the material, and his was the most challenging role physically. Imagine wading in the pool of water for 15 minutes – and the PETA Phinma Theater is cold. His acting is the best among the cast – solid performance from him last night.
The lighting design was curious and eerie. The placement of the canvas stand and the light at its back is deliberate. Look at the backdrop stage right, the shadow is there all the time. Gave me goosebumps. Otherwise, I thought the lighting was subdued.
I was divided on the use of projector. It could be helpful (specially when the actors were delivering scientific jargon), but the fact that the word and the delivered lines were not in sync was distracting.
The play is long (2 hours and 5 minutes), so better relieve yourselves before getting inside the theater. And it’s a bit cold, too, so don’t wear summer clothes inside.
(Ticket is Php 300, and the play runs till March 16, 2009 at the PETA Theater, 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City. Call 7256244 for inquiries or visit their Web site.)
(Thanks, Arpee, for the invite!)
Some stage mockups (found at the lobby of the theater):