Sunday, June 26, 2022

VIRGIN LABFEST 17: Set B

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

LIBERATION – An Old Lady (Neomi Gonzales) in a wheelchair narrates the bittersweet conclusion of World War II in the Pacific Theater as the Americans corner the last remaining Japanese troops south of Manila. Three Japanese soldiers: commanding Daiki (Bong Cabrera); naïve Jiro (Karlo Erfe); and unhinged rapist Haruto (Chrome Cosio) enter an empty house and find a Young Girl (Ericka Peralejo) hiding in a water container. As the three mull over the possibility of not surviving, they reflect on what to do with their last remaining prisoner.

Blood, gore, a prosthetic severed head, and lots of cursing make Liberation hard to watch, aside from the fact that it’s a narrative unflinching in its depiction of the atrocities of war. Perhaps the difference is that we see it mostly from the POV of the three soldiers. Excellent acting from all five actors. If the objective was to remind all of us of the horrors of war, then this play succeeds. I don’t recommend it to those who are easily offended or grossed out by violence, as the trigger warning already states before the start of the show.

ABSURDO: EVENT DAY – The world is ending in an hour and yet colleagues Aly (Thea Marabut) and Rain (Io Balanon) are spending their final moments on Earth making sure that their company’s End of the World concert event will be the best among the rest. As they grapple with pleasing clients and their demonic boss Bruha (Judie Dimayuga), exhaustion and sleep deprivation force them to reflect on how they have lived their lives as well as how they are ending it. Realizations and regrets soon start to flow.



A surprise favorite for me, Absurdo: Event Day is absurdist to the core, from its premise all the way to the off-tangent banter between the two leads. It is funny and tragic at the same time because when it comes down to the end of the world, I bet a lot of us would be spending it the way we see fit: Overtime at the office. In short, dying as a slave of your boss and your job. That ending with the three packs of 3-in-1 coffee left is just icing on the apocalyptic cake.

'NAY, MAY DALA AKONG PANCIT – Kuya (Lian Silverio) goes out to buy pancit from the next-door eatery as a peace offering for his mother, only for Bunso (Monique Nellas) to chase and forbid him from buying it because for some reason, the dish triggers the death of their Nanay (Mila Bolaños). According to her, the day has been rewinding back to that point every time their mother dies, which makes her believe that they should somehow stop it. However, no matter what they do, the death occurs, in really outrageous ways. Tommy Alejandrino also stars in multiple roles.

This play’s reputation precedes itself and I thought it is going to be just a slapstick take on such a trope. Instead, ‘Nay, May Dala Akong Pancit turns this poverty porn trope, which we often see in indie Pinoy films sent abroad, on its head and uses it as a plot device for a Groundhog Day type of narrative. Hilarious and imaginative at the same time, its inclusion in the trio of revisited plays for next year is truly well-deserved. The ending is bittersweet, but full of meaning when it comes to the realities of life.

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