What made the stage plays in the Virgin Labfest 13: Wagas true to its theme, “wagas” (pure)? Well, all of them were purely brilliant!
The SET A of the Virgin Labfest 13 – Rick Patriarca’s “Birdcage” (directed by Ian Segarra), Eljay Castro Deldoc’s “Pilipinas Kong Mahal With All The Overcoat” (directed by Roobak Valle and Tuxqs Rutaquio), and Dr. Oggie Arcenas’s “Loveteam” (directed by Michael Williams) – brought a lot of realizations to the audience.
|Set A posters|
“Birdcage” was the perfect play for those who have been constantly questioning their dreams. The play reassured the audience that dreams do not die, they just change due to changes in priorities. Birdcage was the most relatable play among all the entries this year. It should not only be revisited for next year but should be restaged in other venues for everyone to see.
|With Rick Patriarca, playwright of "Birdcage"|
“How far does one go in the name of money? ” was the question raised in the second play “Pilipinas Kong Mahal With All The Overcoat”. Another hysterically entertaining play from one of the country’s best young playwrights, this play ridiculed our “love” towards fake news and historical revisionism.
|“Pilipinas Kong Mahal With All The Overcoat”, Cast, Director and Playwright|
The last play, “Loveteam” left the message that we fall in love in the person, not in his or her gender. Featuring two of Filipino theater’s good looking actors, “Loveteam” never failed to make the audience scream in romantic excitement.
|"Loveteam", Cast, Director, and Playwright|
If a play is not bold enough, then it’s not for Virgin Labfest. The three plays in SET B, which included “Boses Ng Masa” (written by Joshua Lim So, directed by Guelan Luarca), “Ang Mga Puyong” (written by Ryan Machado, directed by Ricardo Magno), and “Hindi Ako Si Darna” (co-written by Maynard Manansala and UZ Eliserio, directed by Andoy Ranay), proved that the audience of VLF plays should be prepared to be shocked.
|Set B and Set C posters|
The first play, “Boses Ng Masa” tackled the dilemma of a political campaign officer on whether or not he would release the sex video involving the son of a corrupt politician in order to ensure the victory of his own candidate. One would question, “what sacrifices should be made to promote the greater good?” The audience should brace themselves for the play’s numerous “what the f*” moments.
|"Boses ng Masa" Actors|
Meanwhile, SET B further intensified the shock factor with “Ang Mga Puyong”, a play which unraveled the secrets (every three minutes or less!) of two adolescent boys (who were about to be circumcised) as they talked about life, friendship, and sexuality, among others. At the end of the show, the audience would be asking, “what else to be revealed?!”
|"Ang Mga Puyong" Cast, Director, Plyawright|
Finally, the set closed with the highly entertaining “Hindi Ako Si Darna”, which was about the Pinay superhero “Darna” who, in the story, was already old. With star-studded cast led by Tetchie Agbayani (Darna) and John Lapus (Valentina), this play was a reminder that our capacity to be “heroes to others” should not be limited by our age, by other body shape, or any by handicap that we could think of. After watching “Hindi Ako Si Darna”, the audience would definitely leave the theater smiling.
|"Hindi Ako Si Darna" Cast|
How does one find happiness? The plays in SET C, which included “Si Dr. Dolly Dalisay At Ang Mga Ladybugs” (written by Layeta Pinzon Bucoy and directed by Jonathan Tad Tadioan), “Ang Bata Sa Bus Stop” (written by Sari Saysay and directed by Topper Fabregas), and “Dear and Unhappy” (written by Carlo Vergara and directed by Ricky Villabona), showed us the ways how.
In the first play, “Si Dr. Dolly Dalisay At Ang Mga Ladybugs”, happiness was about “finding one's self-worth”. Another masterpiece from a multi-awarded playwright, the play depicted the mother-daughter relationship of Leticia (a contractual technician) and Dr. Dolly Dalisay (an enthomologist) and the insecurities that weakened their bond. Like her previous VLF entries, “Si Dr. Dolly Dalisay At Ang Mga Ladybugs” would surprise the audience with its twist at the end of the play.
|"Si Dr. Dolly Dalisay At Ang Mga Ladybugs" Cast, Director, and Playwight|
The second play, meanwhile, “Ang Bata Sa Bus Stop” reminded the audience that “happiness means living the life you wanted”. The story was about a priest who gave up priesthood and met a seven-year old kid at a bus stop. The two talked to each other and as their conversation about life progressed, they realized that they knew each other.
|"Ang Bata Sa Bus Stop" Cast and Director|
The set ended with “Dear and Unhappy”, a play that emphasized that “happiness is standing by what you believe is right.” Featuring Cris Villonco and Bernardo Bernardo, this play was a speculative/historical-fiction that could earn its spot in the lineup of revisited plays next year. If there would be a best actress award for this season, that accolade should be given to Cris Villonco who was able to sustain her British accent all throughout the play (find out who her interesting character is!)
|"Dear and Unhappy" Cast and Playwright|
It is your DECISION that shapes your fate. This was my takeaway from Virgin Labfest Set D, featuring the plays “Sincerity Bikers Club” (written by Adrian Ho, directed by Jenny Jamora ), “Ang Bahay Sa Gitna Ng Kawalan” (written by Eliza Victoria, directed by George B. de Jesus III), and “Nothing But Dreams” (written by Dingdong Novenario, directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna).
|Set D ticket|
“Sincerity Bikers Club” was about a small group of bikers who needed to decide whether to accept a new member whose husband was killed in a “Tokhang” operation. A timely, heartwarming piece, this play presented both the pros and cons of the conflicting sides, yet, concluded in way that would restore one’s faith in humanity.
|"Sincerity Bikers Club" Cast, Director, and Playwright|
“Ang Bahay Sa Gitna Ng Kawalan” was about the cycle of revenge and how the protagonist decided to break this cycle. This was an interesting play, yet, challenging to stage because the genre was horror/suspense (or rather, horror/suspense-comedy); but with great direction and a powerhouse cast, this play would not disappoint.
|"Ang Bahay Sa Gitna Ng Kawalan" Cast, Director, and Playwright|
“Nothing But Dreams” was a story of a husband and wife who welcomed their “balikbayan” daughter who brought from the US her “black” American boyfriend. Although the guy was the very opposite of the “white” foreigner boyfriend that her parents expected her to have, the daughter decided to choose what her heart desired. This hilarious play questioned our famous Filipino hospitality and made us realize that we are, in fact, discriminating in terms of how we treat other races (i.e. “whites” are superior than “blacks”).
|"Nothing But Dreams" Cast and Director|
SET E (REVISITED)
The Virgin Labfest SET E (Revisited) made the audience feel the pain of the women characters in the plays “Ang Sugilanon Ng Mga Kabiguan Ni Epefania” (written by May Cardoso, directed by Charles Yee), “Ang Bata Sa Drum” (written by Dominique La Victoria, directed by Dudz Terana), and “Mula sa Kulimliman” (written by Carlo Vergara, directed by Hazel Gutierrez), and proved why they deserved to be revisited this year.
“Ang Sugilanon Ng Mga Kabiguan Ni Epefania” told the tragic story of Epefania and what she did just to be loved by Bambangin, the handsomest boy in town. Narrated by a group of drunken men in Negros, this “kwentuhang lasing” was a magically entertaining play that never failed to leave the audience teary-eyed.
|“Ang Sugilanon Ng Mga Kabiguan Ni Epefania” Cast|
“Ang Bata Sa Drum”, meanwhile, was a heartbreaking dialogue between a girl and her younger brother who never wanted to go out of the drum, which he ironically considered to be a better (and safer place) compared to the world outside of it. Despite using a regional language, the play was able to surface the agony of the siblings through their conversation.
|"Ang Bata Sa Drum" Cast|
“Mula Sa Kulimliman”, lastly, was a speculative play that one would want to see over and over again, not only because of the thrilling, well-crafted story by Vergara, but also because of the talented actors, particularly Mayen Estanero who played the role of the mom. I felt her frustration over the “absurdity” of the events that involved her husband (played by Tadioan, another actor whom I love seeing on stage) and her son. With its comic timing, the ensemble brought the house down.
|"Mula sa Kulimliman" Cast|
We want to see more plays like these! The Philippine theater is definitely alive!