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Virgin LabFest’s Set C Is A Must-See!

This year’s Virgin LabFest "Silip" is on it’s last week, with plays running from Tuesday, July 10, and culminating on Sunday, the 15th. I had great things to say about the three plays that comprised Set B, and had the chance to watch Set C - Labor Room, Tulad Ng Dati, and Ensayo; and hard as it may be to believe, this Set C has to go down as the stronger set when you take into consideration all three works. So without a doubt, if you haven’t yet watched a single set, look out for either C or B (or any of the other sets) and get yourself to the CCP before it all comes to a close on Sunday.


READ: 12 Plays, 1 Act, 1 Show: Your Guide To This Year’s Virgin Labfest


Written by Ma. Cecilia dela Rosa, and co-directed by Jose Estrella and Issa Manalo Lopez, Labor Room takes us into the maternity ward of a public hospital, and dissects with infectious humour, the human tragedy and unholy mess that permeates what passes as socialised medicine in our country. Between the attending doctor, her nurse, the lady janitor, and the procession of patients—both expectant mothers and those awaiting  dilation and curettage (D&C) —we’re dropped into a world where there aren’t enough doctors, mothers can’t afford Cesareans, and most everyone is a knowledgable specialist without any training. It’s hilarious, and yet at the same time that we’re entertained and laughing, we’re made acutely aware of just sad it is that this, realistically, is the plight facing so many Filipino women today. In disguise, it’s a State of the Nation address that rings with alarming compassion. Kudos to the ensemble cast.


READ: Of Future Kings, Queens, And Loyal Subjects: Virgin Labfest’s Set B


Tulad Ng Dati, written by JV Ibesate and directed by Olive Nieto is a two-man play that sees an ex-convict return to his home, to reunite with his younger brother. What begins as a reunion, and very dangerously comes close to being a slow, ponderous meditation on family, the bonding of siblings, and the shame a convicted felon can cause to descend on his family; suddenly shifts gears, and enters the dangerous territory of something altogether more disturbing and perverse. That this shift comes as such a surprise, considerably heightens the dramatic tension, and ‘saves’ the work from being humdrum, or ‘we’ve seen it all’. Arnold Reyes and Acey Aguilar really put us through the wringer on this one, throwing a heavy spanner into the complacency the audience may have been settling into. For this change in direction, the play creates quite an impact, leaving us breathless by the play’s end. 


Ensayo is the work of Juan Ekis, and directed by Eric dela Cruz. It stars Sherry Lara and Bembol Roco as two over-aged first time actors who have joined an acting workshop and have been paired together for a scene that involves kissing. The play occurs during the rehearsal of the two, before the other members of the workshop show up. Easily a crowd favorite, this play is undeniably ‘cute’, but shows us that cute has it's merits, and when done as smartly as here, can elevate and transform into true theater. There are no big issues at play, no subtextual agenda, no attempt to be more than what we see; but thanks to the wonderful casting and the deft direction, this work had the audience firmly in its grasp. Without a doubt, by the time this short 25 minutes of a play came to an end, we were all rooting for the two protagonists, and ready to cheer author, author!

From social realism leavened with humor, to a dysfunctional set of siblings, to two oldies playing cat and mouse while in an acting workshop; Set C delights and brings home with clarity why the Labfest has been, and continues to be, such a success.