Saturday, October 13, 2018

Lungs (9 Works Theatrical)

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Man (Jake Cuenca) and Woman (Sab Jose) reflect on whether it would be responsible for them to procreate and introduce another human being to the world. She cites publications as well as her PhD papers on how adding another baby to the planet’s booming population would eventually contribute to the world’s dwindling resources. He is puzzled and seems regretful to have asked. As the two exchange points of view regarding interweaving themes such as parenthood, childbirth, as well as timely issues such as climate change, the couple discover things about one another that they won’t necessarily like. Will their similarities triumph for them to end up as proud parents of their own child or will their differences overcome everything they have shared so far and lead to a bad breakup?

The set is minimalist, an outline of a cube highlighted by fluorescent lights used to deliver that strobe lighting effect that aids in the transition as well as mood setting of certain scenes. Transitions are abrupt and could have been presented better. It just seems that some scenes flow into the other without any clear delineation. After all, this is a one-act play that does not involve any costume changes or elaborate sets. Perhaps that is just the play’s style? Whatever the case might be, not everyone will be a fan. In the end, it’s all about the dialogues.

Lungs is one of those straight plays where you get to reflect on certain everyday issues that hound us as human beings. Musicals achieve that through dance and song. Straight plays like this one do it through dialogues. When done right, they can make you think. This production accomplishes such a task but the execution could have been polished a bit more. There are some parts that are dragging and some members of the audience seemed really bored.

Cuenca needs to enunciate his lines better. He has this tendency to slur, which is not at all beneficial to a play that relies so much on dialogue. This is not a musical and the set is minimal, which means the audience’s attention will automatically focus on the actors and their delivery. His accent is also rather inconsistent, with instances in which his intonation inexplicably goes up making him sound Irish somehow. When in doubt, go for standard American. In any case, this is a decent debut for a mainstream actor dabbling in theater. He can always come back for more.

Jose already proved that she can act and sing in that APO jukebox musical a few months ago. In Lungs, she rambles. A lot. It gives off an annoying vibe from the get go but later on you appreciate the effort such role requires. It’s 90 minutes of talking. How you memorize all those kilometric lines is anybody’s guess. And then there’s the burden of delivery. The character is annoying with all of the overthinking and analyzing that she does, but Jose’s consistency helps us understand where the woman is coming from. In the end, she simply outshines her partner.

As the two take their final bow after an hour and a half of non-stop dialogue, you can see how this experience excites both of them, and it’s such a delight to witness. It’s always fun when you see actors taking their craft seriously, and this material has been a great opportunity to showcase the kind of tenacity that you need to survive theater. May they both benefit more from the fulfillment that this medium can give.

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