Of Future Kings, Queens, And Loyal Subjects: Virgin Labfest’s Set B
For a vehicle showcasing the ‘untried, untested, unpublished and never-been-staged’, the CCP’s annual Virgin Labfest has carved quite a name and reputation for itself over its’ 14 years of existence. With this year’s edition entitled Silip, the Labfest has evolved to be more than the sum of its parts - the plays presented. Given the kind of following it’s engendered, it’s practically a Holy (or Unholy) Covenant between the playwrights testing the waters, the actors committed to do this for the love of art and craft and the audience, who year after year, are ready to troop to the venue as willing guinea pigs, ready to be entertained, surprised, and astounded.
Yesterday, I was fortunate to catch this year’s Set B, a trio of plays-in-development that showcase the kind of depth and diversity that’s been such a hallmark of the Labfest.
Rosas is written by J. Dennis Teodosio and directed by Charles Yee, a two-man play featuring Crispin Pineda and Bembol Roco. There something very Chekhov about the piece, a quiet meditation between two men on life that has passed them by, rekindling memories and hopes, and searching for some kind of resolution or degree of understanding. The undercurrents of homosexuality, of violence or transgressions in the past, stay below the surface, but cast a long shadow on the communication that transpires between the two. It practically feels like an elegy transitioned to drama.
Ang Mga Propesyunal by Sari Saysay, is directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna, and stars three child actors who literally astound. Ostensibly, it’s three kids from the slums, heading home and play-acting as doctor, journalist and policeman. Immediately, you see the potential for how this will play out as a metaphor for what is happening in our country today. Sure, it’s agitprop, but it’s executed so smartly and with smart dollops of comedy that we’re entertained and entranced, while being treated to Political Consciousness 101. To be honest, I found the last portion, when they did their ‘Just in case you didn’t get it’ section, not as effective as the brilliantly sustained start.
Actor Nanding Josef and Director Carlos Siguion-Reyna
In the center row, the amazing child actors cast of "Ang Mga Propesyunal"
Post-performance, Raquel Villavicencio and Madeleine Nicolas pose with Guelan Luarca and Rafa Siguion-Reyna of "Edgar Allan Hemingway.?"
And then, there’s Edgar Allan Hemingway, written by Carlo Vergara (of Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady, and Zsa Zsa Zaturnahh fame), and directed by George de Jesus III. This stars Rafa Siguion-Reyna and Ricci Chan. Rafa portrays a computer programmer who has reinvented himself as America’s new, hottest novelist, while Ricci is his confidante and lover. On a visit to the Philippines, an old friend played by Guelan Luarca has wrangled an interview. About identity, AI, ethics and scruples, the play examines motives and moral dilemmas with a razor’s edge, and dissects the ‘creative process’ with gleeful bitchiness.
The Virgin Labfest runs until the 15th of July, with 3pm and 8pm Sets every day except Monday. Very well worth the time and effort.
Photos by Philip Cu-Unjieng
Lead images from Cultural Center of the Philippines' Facebook page