Sunday, July 15, 2018

VIRGIN LABFEST 14: Set E

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BIRDCAGE – Three BPO agents clash as they discuss life's everyday realities during lunch break. Peter (Jerom Canlas) is leaving his post to go back to the academe and fulfill his dream of studying again. He has not decided on a course program just yet, but Arthur (Gie Onida) is already convinced that the young lad will be back soon enough after he has squandered his savings on his worthless academic venture. Playing referee is Ed (Aldo Vencilao) who ends up reminiscing about his own what-ifs as he confronts the lonely fact that is his status as one of the company's long-tenured workers.

It is not difficult to understand why this play made it to this year's revisited set. It is just so damn relatable. Witnessing two opposing perspectives unfold, it is up to you based on where you are in your life at present to decide whether you will side with aging realist Arthur or support young idealist Peter. It's hard to decide because at certain points in our lives, we're both, but perhaps it is Ed who characterizes most of us, the undecided. If anything, the narrative just harks back to the common favorite theme that self-aware existentialists usually debate on. As such, this material will never get old because it refers to a topic that will always be relevant in today's society.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

VIRGIN LABFEST 14: Set A

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MGA BATA SA SELDA 43 – Ino (JM Canlas) and his older brother Philip (Tomas Santos) find themselves in what seems to be a jail cell labeled #43. What they have done to end up there is unclear, but the bond between the two is evident. They deal with the uncertainty of the situation by sharing anecdotes and annoying each other like typical siblings do, but their musings are interrupted by the arrival of Ed (Rafael Tibayan) who emerges from the shadows explaining how he has been trapped there for the last three decades. He also reveals the truth to his two new inmates, a fact that they might not just be ready to accept.

This one starts off making you think that it's going to be another play with a lot of talk and reflection about life, but the spick and span nature of their jail cell is just a little bit too unrealistic for the Philippine setting. This leads you to believe that there is a twist halfway through, and there is indeed. In any case I couldn't have guessed it. All the while I thought it was going to turn into some X-Men wannabe of sorts. The twist is heartbreaking, even more so when you see what happens next. For that alone I'd even dare say that this is one of the best entries this year as far as emotional impact is concerned, if only for the wet eyes in the audience when the lights finally turned on.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I Love You, Hater

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Joko (Joshua Garcia) lies to his family pretending that he is working in New York after an illegal recruiter runs away with his money. Zoe (Julia Barretto) works hard to get recognition from her father who denies her existence as an illegitimate child. When social media mogul Sasha (Kris Aquino) begins her search for a new assistant, Joko inadvertently gets the job after exchanging smart graphic design quips with her during a chance encounter on the company elevator. Being a persistent fan and believing that the position is her destiny, Zoe challenges the decision, her being blunt catching the attention of her potential boss. When she reiterates how their target audience mainly consists of women and gay men, a desperate and cash-strapped Joko lies again, pretending to be homosexual and, thus, qualified for the role. Sasha decides to put both of them under probation for three months, after which she will choose who is better suited for the job.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

VIRGIN LABFEST 14: Set C

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LABOR ROOM – Fearing that her baby might come out with abnormalities, Veh (Hariette Damole) is wheeled into the waiting room as preparation for induced labor. There she meets Ate (Skyzx Labastilla), a first-time mom wannabe who just suffered a miscarriage. Minutes later, Nay (Sheryll Ceasico) also comes into the room for dilation and curettage, which happens to be her fourth time. As more pregnant women come and go, Dok Jean (J-Mee Katanyag) and her assistant Nars (Kiki Baento) try to make do of whatever facilities, or lack thereof, their local hospital has to offer.

Labor Room is a pleasant surprise. We have all experienced being born, but giving birth is something exclusive to mothers and not everyone will get to witness this beautiful phenomenon live. There are various factors at play from moral to logistical, which is where this one-act play succeeds. It doesn't just give you a glimpse of reproduction from a biological standpoint, it also shows you the various aspects that affect it at present. The ladies' anecdotes, for example, tell you all about the cultural dimension. The doctor's attitude and candor are a critic of the socio-political factor, while talks about abortion and the like allude to the moral side of things. The mood is nevertheless kept light and the narrative avoids melodramatic territory thanks to the funny banter among the women.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

VIRGIN LABFEST 14: Set B

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ROSAS – Merto (Bembol Roco) and Anding (Crispin Pineda) meet once again at Home for the Aged, a nursing home for senior citizens who either have no family left or simply not welcome in the family home anymore. The two men reminisce and share stories of their younger days while also reflecting on the current state of their lives and how they ended up on a swing at a garden with roses aplenty. As the discussion continues, their past catches up with them, something they eventually have to confront.

Rosas starts this set in a nostalgic note that seems a bit too melancholic. The overall vibe can be a little loaded albeit monotonous, leading you to ask whether the management’s decision to place it ahead of the other two is ill-advised. Nevertheless, Roco and Pineda don’t disappoint. The blocking leaves something to be desired, though. Given how the narrative is anchored in its two lead characters and there is nothing much in the minimalist set for distraction, not being able to see either actor’s face is a bit disappointing especially if you are on the side bleachers.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Following the events of Civil War, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been under house arrest for almost two years now. He misses the action, but also takes advantage of the downtime to be with his daughter. With his sentence ending in a couple of days everything seems to be alright, until he makes a phone call to Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). In his dream, he is Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) playing hide and seek with her daughter. Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and her dad are both on the run due to their involvement with Lang, but resume contact with him after his revelation, thinking that perhaps his dream wasn't a dream at all but rather a call for help from deep within the Quantum Realm. Father and daughter work hard on building a quantum tunnel in an effort to rescue the original Wasp, not knowing that a figure in the shadows also wants their tech for personal reasons.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Tag

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A group of friends from Spokane have been playing the same game of tag for the last three decades or so during the whole month of May. This year, it's different. After applying at Bob's (Jon Hamm) company as some sort of covert operation just for the sake of tagging him, Hogan (Ed Helms) convinces his friend to fly with him to Denver to pick up their pothead friend Chilli (Jake Johnson). Afterwards, the trio crash Kevin's (Hannibal Buress) psychotherapy session before they all fly home to Washington for their special mission. Jerry (Jeremy Renner) has never been tagged ever since they started playing the game in their childhood. He also plans to retire after getting married to his fiancé before the month ends. With Wall Street Journal writer Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis) who plans to cover their story in tow, the group attempts to tag their friend one last time, but nobody said it's going to be easy.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

VIRGIN LABFEST 14: Set D

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MARAWI MUSICALE – Jhong (Jonathan Tadioan), Khristina (Lhorvie Ann Nuevo), and Richard (Nazer Salcedo) are all Manileños who find themselves in war-torn Marawi to facilitate a feeding program as well as a music therapy project, an advocacy geared towards a semblance of normalcy for the province’s children. They are joined by Khalid (Popperts Bernadas) and his sister-in-law Salanka (Bayang Barrios) who both await the return of her husband, fearing he has already been captured by ISIS. Preparing meals with the sound of bombs exploding in the background, the group has to remain steadfast and unfazed, trying to make a difference by focusing on what they do best.

This is a musical and the lyrics of the songs, while few and still incomplete, do tug a heartstring here and there. What we have to thank this mini-musical for is its introduction of the issue with individuals involved. Mindanao is not in a different country, although we who live here in the capital two hours away by plane only ever hear about the conflict in the news, seeing statistics instead of faces. We can say that the issue is humanized here. Instead of being bombarded with numbers that we will never really care about, we are confronted by the plights of Jhong, Khalid, Salanka, and the like. We are all reminded that this issue is as real as it can be and, perhaps, that awareness is all we need to start giving a damn.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Incredibles 2

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A few months post-Syndrome, the Parr family once again find themselves confronting another super villain. After their failed attempt to stop the Underminer, combined pressure from politicians and the media alike results in a harder time for all superheroes, forcing them to embrace the mundane existence that their alter egos entail. That is bound to change with the arrival of telecommunications tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), whose vision of a world where supers are back in the limelight is underpinned by reliance on reputation and how it is projected to the world at large. In an effort to bring his perceived future to fruition, he enlists the help of Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to revamp the image of the everyday hero, documenting her every move with advanced camera technology. Unbeknownst to them, a new threat under the synonym of Screenslaver is just looming in the background, attempting to sabotage their every move in an effort to outlaw supers forever.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hereditary

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Grieving her mother's recent death, miniaturist artist Annie (Toni Collette) is not ready for yet another heartbreak, but tragedy strikes when you least expect it to. With no one having the guts to take either blame or responsibility, the family disintegrates in the midst of mental illness and supernatural mayhem. Steve Graham (Gabriel Byrne), her husband and a psychologist, believes that his wife is just having manic episodes to cope with her grief. When their son Peter (Alex Wolff) begins to act strangely and reports weird visions and apparitions of his own, the family must confront the possibility that their problem might just be way beyond whatever solutions modern psychology can offer.

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