Monday, July 4, 2016

Theater Review: The 12 Virgins of "The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag"

The Vigin Labfest 12: Binyag (VLF 12) hatched from its egg last June 29, 2016. I was able to catch all the 12 new plays as they saw the light during the first week. Being the cream of the crop this year with 197 submissions, the plays in VLF 12 tackled various offbeat topics that would bewilder the audience.

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag Program and Festival Pass

There were 5 sets that included the 12 plays (SET A-D) and the revisited plays, composed of  the three best plays last year (SET E). Each ticket costs Php 350/set. I availed of the Festival Regular Pass for the Premiere Week for Php 1,400 (with a savings of Php 350). However, with all the surprises and twists popping right before me for five straight days, what I spent for The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag was really worth it.

In my Facebook posts right after the show, I put my initial thoughts on the plays on each set. I would like to add my other insights about the plays in this blog entry, particularly, what to watch for in each of the stage plays.


Playwright: Soc Delos Reyes
Director: Adolf Alix

A story of father-daughter love, this play is about acceptance and letting go. Knowing that the brilliant Mailes Kanapi is included in the cast, you’re assured that this is a no-nonsense drama.

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast, Playwright and Director of "Dahan-dahan Ang Paglubog Ng Araw"

Playwright: Alexandra Mae Cardoso
Director: Charles Yee

“Sugilanon” (in English, “stories”) reminds me of one of this year’s revisited plays, “Si Maria Isabela At Ang Guryon Ng Mga Tala”. While Maria Isabela travels places to collect all the materials for the gigantic kite that would fly her to the stars,  Epefania controls the weather to prove her love. So much for teenage admiration, huh?! You would love Epefania and the three drunken men in the play!

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast of "Sugilanon Ng Kabiguan Ni Epefania"

Playwright: Oggie Arcenas
Director: Roobak Valle

A story of friendship, “Si Jaya, Si Ronda, Si Barbra At Si Barbra At Ang Mahiwagang Kanta” is a funny play that explores the lives and issues of three middle-aged friends, set inside a videoke bar on a Halloween. Be ready to laugh out loud and roll on the floor with all the punchlines you’ve never heard before!

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast, Playwright and Director of " Si Jaya, Si Ronda, Si Barbra
At Ang Mahiwagang Kanta" 


Playwright: Herlyn Alegre
Director: Ricardo Magno

Herlyn Alegre’s play is another heart-breaking drama about four refugees of civil war and their quest to find a new home and start a new life. What I live about Alegre's plays (at least from what I've seen so far) is that she gets inspiration from events abroad and make it "Filipino", like her last year's "Huling-Huli".

Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast, Playwright, and Director of "Bahay-Bahayan, Tagu-Taguan

Playwright: Dominique La Victoria
Director: Dudz Terana

The boy who’s always being punished by his father would opt to stay inside the drum, despite the persuasion of his sister because he feels safer being inside that container than outside. I love the accent of the actors in this play, and yes, the whole time, the boy stayed inside the drum.

Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast and Director of "Ang Bata sa Drum"

Playwright: Kanakan Balintagos
Director: Law Fajardo

I would guess that this play is partly autobiographical. The young Kanakan Balintagos, the name of character in the play (and the name of the playwright, as well) argues with his mom, who’s a Marcos loyalist, about the truth behind the Marcoses. This, indeed, is a timely and relevant play that needs to be show to the 14M oblivious voters in the recent elections who desired to welcome the Marcoses to Malacanang, as if nothing happened.

Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast, Playwright, and Director of "Loyalist"


Playwright: Ma. Cecilia Dela Rosa
Director: Ariel Yonzon

Jean and her husband Brad left the revolutionary movement years back. As they face challenges in their relationship, Jean, who is in search for love and affection, is left confused. As she goes through her struggle, her friends from way back visit her, and reminisce the good old days they shared, leaving her more confused. This play makes you understand that members of revolutionary movement are also capable of loving, and they also experience the same problems of ordinary people, in terms of love. Perhaps, even more complicated.

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast, Playwright, and Director of "Ang Mga Bisita Ni Jean"

Playwright: Guelan Luarca
Director: Mara Paulina Marasigan

A Christian kid eventually died when he’s pushed by a Muslim classmate from the building, when the former desecrated the Quran, or Islam’s religious text. The exchange of dialogues between the teacher and Muslim kid’s father will make you think if it’s a crime to defend your own faith.

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast, Playwright, Director of "Bait"

Playwright: Carlo Vergara
Director: Hazel Gutierrez

Fans of comic books would love this story of a family where the ordinary housewife, a kakanin (rice cake) vendor is perplexed about the revelations from his husband who claims to be the superhero in the comics “Mula sa Kulimliman”, and is tasked to defeat Brukuka. Accepted as a staged reading in The Virgin Labfest 11, “Mula sa Kulimliman” definitely deserves to be staged this year.

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast, Playwright, and Director of "Mula sa Kulimliman"


Playwright: Eliza Victoria
Director: George de Jesus

Eliza Victoria’s futuristic play, “Marte”, is set in Mars, where Filipinos would be sent to work in factories. Yes, story opens the possibility of our OFWs finding jobs not only in other countries, but in other planets, as well! However, as the the play postulates, the oppression of workers would prevail, regardless of location, as long as the system and the leaders perpetuate this. Among all the plays, “Marte” has the most impressive set design for me.

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast, Playwright, and Director of "Marte"

Playwright: Ricardo Novenario
Director: Nicolas Pichay

Expect that the audience would whisper “Yuck, incest!” initially, but Daddy’s Girl is more than just a forbidden father-daughter affair. It’s about love and finding your soulmate. Chasing would never cease, unless you find the one destined for you. You will born, die, and reborn. I have read the initial script of this play during the Writers’ Bloc session and I already loved it then. With Nick Pichay’s direction and the acting of Marco Viana and Skyzx Labastilla, the play becomes even more brilliant. (Spoiler: expect a number of kissing scenes and an audience participation!)

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast, Playwright, and Director of "Daddy's Girl"

Playwright: Ricardo Patriarca
Director: Chris Martinez

A parody about a typical middle-class Filipino family, this play is one of the most entertaining plays this year, and a strong contender for being revisited. Before the dining table, the family talks about important issues about their members – the daughter’s unwanted pregnancy, the father’s infidelity, the son’s drug addiction – in a satirical way. Awesome cast led by Adriana Agcaoili! (Be warned that every line has “f*ck yous” and “P***ng ina’s”. To say that these expletives are countless is an understatement.)

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Cast, Playwright, and Director of "Hapagkainan"

With these “untried, untested, unstaged” plays, The Virgin Labfest, proves  that, indeed, the Philippine theater is alive! Catch their remaining shows until July 17, 2016.

The Virgin Labfest 12: Binyag
Happy me!