Photo by Karen Zhao on Unsplash

Tara’s 2019 Mid-Year Theatre Round-Up

Theatre

Most of the people who know me know I’m a sucker for a good theatre production. Thing is, I kind of suck at writing reviews lately, that most of my thoughts about the shows I’ve seen this year were only confined to Instagram posts. And since we’ve reached the halfway mark of 2019 (ALREADY?!?), I’ve decided to do a mid-year theatre round-up! <3

Here are the musicals and plays I’ve seen this year:

Flashcard Tangle

Flashcard Tangle (January 2019) was Jef Flores’ first attempt to bring to life a story of first like-like (not love!) between/among some really smart elementary school kids. Oh, and they’re also still troubled with Spanish and Mathematics. The struggle!

Is this a rewatch? No.
Number of times seen this run: 1

Rounded up from 2.5 stars. Flashcard Tangle was fresh and fun, but the script could use a lot of work to improve the storytelling and flesh out the characters some more. There were a couple of songs which could definitely be played/performed as standalones and still resonate with listeners.

Charot

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Overtly political and highly relevant, #PETACharot is a brilliant, entertaining musical that encourages us to examine our choices and exercise our right to vote. Wisely, I should add. But more than that, it is a mirror that reflects our daily truths—the neverending traffic, our "Bahala na" attitude, the choosing to ease hunger over making informed decisions, our tendency to quickly label people according to class or political beliefs—reminding us of our privilege (hashtag BLESSED) while showing the plight of the people around us. Oh, and did I mention YOU get to choose which direction the story goes? That was pretty neat too. I just wish there was an option to restart and view the other alternate scenes, though, Bandersnatch-style. . . ⭐⭐⭐⭐🌠/5 stars for catchy songs, relatable characters, and overall production value. Congratulations, and thank you for the work that you do, PETA. How I missed you. ❤ . . #PETACharot runs at the @petatheatercenter until Sunday, March 17. You may get your tickets at Ticketworld, or check out @petatheater for showbuyer information.

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PETA’s Charot (March 2019) might have been didactic, but given the current political climate, more aggressive steps need to be taken to remind everyone of important, life-changing choices they have to make at the polls.

Is this a rewatch? No.
Number of times seen this run: 1

review 4 stars
Loved the Bandersnatch-inspired treatment for this, where audiences can choose what characters will do next at certain points of the show. Songs are very catchy, too! Walang charot!

Ang Huling El Bimbo

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I probably need to write up an entire blog post about this but work is eating me alive, so…this, instead: . . #AngHulingElBimbo2019 to me felt like a puzzle that has found its missing pieces. Scenes that made me go "WTF?" in its initial run were presented with much more clarity now, with a rationale that made everything fall into place nicely. Although I personally am still mad that the show relied on sexual violence to push the narrative forward—this is now show canon apparently—I can say this second iteration handled that arc better. (Hector, you are trash, #srynotsry.) . . Make no mistake, Joy is still very much a tragic character, but humanizing her, giving her a bit more agency, and drawing the spotlight on HER life instead of the three men's was a move that's appreciated. (Because who needs to know what her shitty friends have been up to, honestly?) That being said, I'm glad that despite the excuses the show throws at us regarding Hector, AJ, and Emman's absentee friendship, we were not forced to forgive them so easily by giving us an "All's well, that ends well" sort of ending. Because boy, do these men need to g r o v e l. . . Also, the Sunday (March 31) matinee had trouble with sound tech throughout the show and it was distracting and annoying at the same time. I hope production fixes that, because it ruins the musical experience a whole lot. 😣

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Full House Theater’s Ang Huling El Bimbo (March 2019) made some significant changes from their first run (my review of that here) which made the storytelling smoother, but not less disturbing.

Is this a rewatch? Yes.
Number of times seen this run: 1

Strong individual performances and production design make up this rating, mostly. Still could not give it a higher mark because the rape is still there, and REALLY, the story could have been done without making a tragic character out of the woman.

Angels in America

(Image lifted from Our Awesome Planet)

(OMG I suck, I don’t even have an IG post for it!)

Atlantis Theatrical’s Angels in America (April 2019) tackled themes of homosexuality and mental health in a three-hour long show which was both exhausting and amazing. Exhausting because of the struggles the main characters had, and amazing because we were treated to very strong performances by Art Acuña, Topper Fabregas, Nelsito Gomez, and Cherie Gil.

Is this a rewatch? No.
Number of times seen this run: 1

review 4 stars
It was such a delight to see veteran TV and film actors Art Acuña and Cherie Gil giving it their all on stage. If only for that, I’m giving the show four stars. <3

Kundiman Party

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After watching #TheKundimanParty the first time, @chiyurodriguez and I had a discussion about how we felt betrayed that Bobby, a symbol for the young and woke demographic, suddenly up and left something he’d been so passionate about – essentially his brainchild – after being confronted by his corrupt politician father. The conversation that followed seemed bleak as well; that of Bobby leaving now and possibly coming back as someone they won’t recognize anymore, someone who has the same face and charm, but not the Bobby they knew. ° ° But something stood out to me while watching the show the second time. Something I didn’t see the first time because I was sitting on the other side of the theatre. From our seats at the balcony I saw Bobby’s (Boo Gabunada) eyes and face clearly during that confrontation with his father, Senator Valderrama (Nonie Buencamino), and it made All the Difference. Bobby was mad and defiant and scared and tired – all at the same time – and his father gave him two options: to come home, or fight where it hurts. ° ° What I saw in Bobby’s eyes was uncertainty, maybe a bit of fear, but the defiance was still there. Sure, he gave Maestra Adela’s living room (her warm hospitality) a final, longing look. Sure, he left his red cap (a symbol of his rebellion) behind. Call me an insufferable optimist, but I choose to see that fiery resolve in his eyes, and I choose to believe he left to FIGHT WHERE IT HURTS so that Maestra and the titas and the woman he loves can continue what they started without fearing for their safety. ° ° Now this might not be the show's intention, but hey, I try to find hope in the bleakest of things, apparently. Fiction or otherwise. ° ° Shoutout to @booloveslife for an amazing, nuanced portrayal of such a complex character. The titas made me lose it on the first viewing, but you hit me hard, right in the feels this time around. Can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next. ° ° #TheKundimanParty closes today, June 2, at the PETA Theatre Center. I hope you’re able to catch their last two shows, because SERIOUSLY, IT IS WORTH YOUR EVERY PENNY. Will post info on how to get your tickets in my IG story! #SingRememberResist

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Powerful, funny, and educational, Dulaang UP’s Kundiman Party (May/June2019) is my favorite show out of all that I’ve seen so far this year. It hit home so hard, I was thinking about the characters and the lessons for weeks. Here’s me wishing for a rerun so I can bring in more people to watch this gem of a show.

Is this a rewatch? No.
Number of times seen this run: 2

It’s rare to find an ensemble that’s THIS amazing. And with that kind of material? Golden. (P.S. Hello, my favorite tita is Tita Mitch.)

Laro

(Image lifted from Artist Playground)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a play that’s as daring as Artist Playground’s Laro (June 2019), an adaptation of La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler. It explores the power dynamics between various men who meet and have sexual relationships/encounters. Very brave piece of work, which was uncomfortable to watch at times.

Is this a rewatch? No.
Number of times seen this run: 1

 

review 4 stars
Rounded up from 3.5 stars. Solid performances from the actors made the material interesting, laugh-out-loud, and powerful. Maybe another run at a better venue would be good, too?

Meanwhile, here are the shows I’m looking forward to seeing (crossing fingers!) for the second half of the year:

Ubusan na naman ng pera ‘tooooooo! ^_^


By the way, if you’re into musicals and plays and romance like I am, you might want to read my book, Waiting in the Wings. Set in a theatre company based in Manila, the book is about an NBSB theatre actress—who has grown tired of being romanced and kissed only on stage—and her journey to finding love, possibly in someone she did not quite expect.

The book is available on Amazon and print-on-demand (for PH only).

Header photo by Karen Zhao

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