Sunday, July 8, 2018



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.

TULAD NG DATI – Neil (Arnold Reyes) returns to the family home after spending two decades in prison. His younger brother Norman (Acey Aguilar) gives him a warm welcome but the reunion takes a turn for the worse when old secrets begin to surface. As details of the elder's imprisonment as well as stories of the younger's subsequent sufferings come to light one by one, the meaning behind the title of the play and the relationship between the two become clearer, hinting at complications that do not immediately meet the eye.

Well everyone seems shocked with that double whammy of a twist, although there is reason to believe that it is not due to its controversial nature, but rather the unexpected revelation. There is indeed a weird kind of vibe enveloping the two's monotonous dialogues but the storyline could have taken a totally different path. Perhaps the audience was just caught off-guard by the playwright's decision to go down this particular route? Maybe "awkward" is the best one adjective description for this narrative, and the audience's mixed but generally shocked reaction is still indicative of the nation's hesitance to tackle such taboo themes.

ENSAYO – Sexagenarians Peds (Bembol Roco) and Tisha (Sherry Lara) register for an acting workshop and are given a script that requires a kissing scene. She thinks that it is inappropriate given their age. He thinks she is just afraid that she might fall for him. In an effort to save face and share a credible presentation to their younger peers, the scene partners come in early to practice, but just couldn't get that kissing scene right. As their lips repeatedly lock they start to discover more about each other, leading to a stronger friendship and possibly even more.

It's always nice to see mainstream actors cross over to try their luck onstage, and Roco does not disappoint. Coming from his matinee presentation of Rosas, he attacks a different character for the evening session. This is his more enjoyable role for this year's VLF despite the repetitive nature of his lines here. Perhaps it has something to do with the material and how it leaves a lot of room for the actors to just have fun. Lara, on the other hand, is a theater veteran and juggles two roles within the same set, playing the janitress in Labor Room. The two are just so fun to watch together and we are amused because Ensayo is proof that not all stories that revolve around senior citizens should be sappy and guilt-inducing. Hey, they are also allowed to have fun!

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