Saturday, March 2, 2013

D' Wonder Twins of Boac (PETA)


Viola (Cris Villonco) and Bastian (Chrome Cosio) are the Wonder Twins of Boac, a triple threat duo set to capture the hearts of many as they leave their humble town in Marinduque to embark on a movie career in the big city. These aspirations, however, are stalled as the ship they are on sinks, separating the two. Later, Bastian becomes a stuntman, while Viola puts on her best Elvis look as cross-dressing Cesar to pursue her dream of making it big in the business. Together, they get entangled in the complicated world of showbiz as they are used as pawns by two bickering film studio heads trying to merge their companies to evade bankruptcy. They are once again reunited, in not so ideal circumstances, but are they both fit to survive the demands of a dying industry that is on the constant lookout for something new? This is one hilarious take on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night that you simply should not miss, as it gives you a fun-filled trip down memory lane, back to the 60's after Philippine Cinema has reached its peak.
There are too many deserving highlights to pinpoint just one, but that Elvis audition surely had the entire audience laughing. And then there is that scene where everything is revealed. It is contrived, yes, but still had the audience squirming in delight. The plot is formulated in such a way that the main premise, which is that of mistaken identity and playing pretend, would not consume its novelty all at once. This is accomplished by inserting many a repartee among the other members of the cast, which is perhaps the only other negative aspect of the play.

You would think that it is all about the twins, but most of the scenes are among the movie executives, the world they live in, and the complications that come with it. The twins are somehow just used as anchors and have considerably less exposure onstage. This is all the more true for Bastian, who just disappears and reappears occasionally after the shipwreck. Viola, at least, gets to play around more with all the cross-dressing and funny love triangle subplots.

Too much has already been said regarding Villonco’s talents onstage that reiterating it again would already sound like @ss-kissing. Well, what can we do? If it were up to me, this woman would be having a stellar movie, TV, and music career, but I guess the universe knows that we need the likes of her to reinvigorate the local theater scene. And everyone would agree that she is doing a fantastic job. It is delightful to see her try something new here aside from the typical leading lady material that she often gets to play. Cosio, to me, is a bit unrecognizable, but very well worthy of praise as he is able to complement Villonco quite well, despite the latter’s popularity and effortless singing. It is good to see how one voice is not drowned by the other when they sing and dance to their duets, and we could have used more of that but there are just so few in this musical.

The real showstopper would be Shamaine Buencamino, whom I am seeing onstage for the very first time. Her accolades in the indie scene are not unknown to many, and seeing her breathe life to a quirky 60’s movie producer hiding some promiscuity issues under her black veil is simply a treat to watch. Some would argue that she has stolen much of what should have been more exposure for the twins, but none of us is complaining because she was so in character and portrayed the role convincingly without going overboard. The rest of the cast also live up to the hype and provide one hell of a good time through their witty banter and evident rapport.

Perhaps what this musical achieves that should be given necessary attention is how it becomes a social critique of the Filipino film industry as a whole. The setting is in the 60’s but anyone who comes to see this would agree that the thesis implied could very well apply to the modern day setting. The flamboyant comedy director and his “serious” counterpart who sees his movies as trash could very well be any director nowadays. In fact, we could drop names, but I guess it would already be too obvious by now, deeming it as no longer necessary. Is the film industry really dying?

Maybe it depends on how one views it. Two films from the last two years have out-grossed one another for them to claim to be the most-watched Filipino movies of all time, but in terms of quality, are they deserving of such recognition? But those are the types of film that moviegoers want to see. Or maybe it is because they are already used to such shallow forms of entertainment? But then again it is them who dictates what the industry churns out every year, right? This is where this theater piece succeeds, because it subtly hints on this issue and leaves the audience thinking, at least those who would like to give a damn.

In the end, as the epilogue suggests, everything is just one paradigm shift right after another. What is “in” at the moment would definitely not be so in the next few years. Case in point: Bold movies. And so it ends with the twins adjusting to what is demanded by the industry simply because the industry would not adjust to them, and if you are hell-bent in fulfilling your ambition, you are going to have to play by the rules.

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