Saturday, February 4, 2012

Next Fall (Repertory Philippines)

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Just like any other couple, Adam’s (Bart Guingona) and Luke’s (David Bianco) relationship is not without its quirks. Luke is a devout Christian. A very devout Christian. He believes that when Judgment Day comes all those who accept Christ in their hearts would vanish in a wink of an eye to go to heaven, while those who do not will be given time to change their minds. Adam finds this religion thing to be one of the obstacles keeping them from having a perfect relationship, and mocks his partner about it. However, it is perhaps, the former’s reluctance to admit their relationship to his folks that truly puts their relationship to the test. One day Luke gets hit by a cab, and an awkward meeting among the important people in his life takes place in the waiting room of the hospital where he is confined in.

The Wikipedia page says that it is a drama, which it actually is, although it would better fit the description of a dramedy. For people with short attention span, anything seen onstage without an attention-grabbing song and dance number would most likely be dismissed as a snore fest. This one veers away from that notion thanks to many funny bits in the script replete with sarcasm, which mostly comes from the Adam character. Although forming part of the love team, the character of Luke seems more like a supporting role. Or perhaps it is due to the characterization, of Adam getting the more feisty personality. Nevertheless there is good rapport between the two and the intimate scenes do not feel uncomfortable at all. In the end you just toss the it is a gay love story summary out the window and conclude that it is simply a love story. Period.

Liesl Batucan as Holly, check. Miguel Faustmann as Butch, check. Juno Henares as Arlene, check. These are familiar faces in the Philippine theater scene, and it is always fascinating to point out that even if you see them onstage over and over again, you just cannot get tired of them because they always give you a good show. Niccolo Manahan as Brandon, also a check, although the portrayal felt a bit stiff, or maybe the character is really just meant to be portrayed that way. At first I thought the character is just there to get rid of other extras, in short, to announce events as they happen in lieu of a caption if this was a movie. It turns out the character also plays an important role, even though this is unveiled quite late.

No problem with Guingona and Bianco, or perhaps just a bit with Guingona who have two or three instances in which he sort of stutters, repeating some syllables. Maybe he almost forgot some lines, but who could blame him. This play is just so full of dialogues, and the punch lines would cease to be funny if the actor does not have good comedic timing. Well, that, I give to him. He owns this role.

One prominent feature of the play is all the talk about religion and faith, about believing, which is a never ending discussion, really. Every day you meet people with different opinions about it. Everyone, regardless on which side of the fence he or she is on, would get his or her fair share of criticisms from the other side. What life tries to tell us though is that in the end, it is just a matter of believing.

In theater and in film this is often presented through a life altering event which draws people closer to one another. It really is a recurring theme, and it makes one wonder why it is so difficult to emulate in real life. Perhaps it is something that one really has to experience first-hand in order to understand it fairly well. Still, these stories do a good job in giving us a glimpse of how it might be, and of course it makes us yearn to do the same. Even though it might not be a catalyst to change our lives for the better, at least the idea is made to look not so farfetched anymore.

How about points in the story that you could relate to? Well, there is the issue of midlife crisis here as seen through Adam’s life, and Luke acts as his guiding light in that he makes him realize how to just enjoy life, which is quite ironic because he himself would not admit his sexual orientation to his family. And so they have something to argue about. Perhaps that is what the play is driving at after all, that we all have a streak of stubbornness in our system, do we not? However, it is always nice to have someone who offers a different perspective, which consequently leads us to see things in a different light.

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