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.

SINCERITY BIKERS' CLUB – A small group of bikers welcome their new recruit, but the introductions easily go awry. Louella (Rachelle Gimpes) is happy to escape from whatever it is that she is dealing with back in Quezon City, but rumors can reach even the highest hills. Marife (Frances Makil-Ignacio) reveals that she has heard stories from her relatives about how their new recruit's husband was recently killed for being a drug pusher. Tito Doods (Joel Saracho), the group elder, thinks that no one should be judged based on his or her past. Rocky (Chrome Cosio) believes so too. Youngest member Tom (Jerome Dawis), on the other hand, suddenly recalls how one of his friends suffered the same grim fate when his name was associated with alleged drug users. His mother Cynthia (Ring Antonio), club president, suggests that their new member undergo a drug test. Divided, will the club members choose compassion or err on the side of caution?

This play is a good example of a narrative that tackles a heavy issue but manages to keep everything light thanks to its tongue-in-cheek dialogues. The theme remains daunting and worth the discussion, but the dynamics among the characters make everything watchable. It all boils down to a familiar moral dilemma that plagues us once in a while. Having a fun debate with friends later on should a good follow-through. Perhaps what makes the material really good is how there really is no antagonist to speak of. In the end, everyone is just trying to balance rationality and empathy.

PILIPINAS KONG MAHAL WITH ALL THE OVERCOAT – Nato (Fitz Bitana) and Ambet (Paul Jake Paule) are finally reaping the benefits of their blog going viral. dikasure.com is an online repository of historical fiction, articles and dialogues that are based on real characters but tweaked to appeal to a mainstream fan base. Paid writing jobs just keep on pouring in as their latest entry, a love letter from Bonifacio to Ka Oryang, proves to be a hit. But Ambet has had enough. Thinking that his fake articles are contributing to the dumbification of an entire generation of young Filipinos, he wants to stop and write legit prose instead. Of course, Nato disagrees. Their debate is interrupted by the arrival of a politician's secretary (Chunchi Cabasaan) and her armed bodyguard (Anthony Falcon) who coerce the duo at gunpoint to write praises for Martial Law.

Now this one is a total riot. It's one of those plays whose lines can easily be adjusted to refer to current socio-political topics, which is just brilliant. It must have something to do with the nature of their blog. Since the allusions are currently relevant, anyone with a funny bone who hasn't lived under a rock will be able to relate and contribute a few laughs. They can include this play every year and never run out of things to talk about. Even then, it's almost assured that it will always be one of the crowd favorites.

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