Saturday, June 29, 2024

VIRGIN LABFEST 19: Set B - Bingit


SENTENARYO - Lolo Dencio (Ekis Gimenez) has reached a milestone in life as he celebrates his 100th birthday. His mistress-turned-wife Tonette (Gold Soon) welcomes his eldest grandson Joel (Chunchi Cabasaan) and eldest daughter Carmen (Madeleine Nicolas) for a mini celebration. All of them have a hidden agenda, though, being fully aware of a new law providing a 100,000-peso cash incentive to new centenarians. As they quarrel over who should be getting a bigger share of the money, they almost fail to notice that the old man has seemingly passed away in his sleep, putting the cash they are wildly anticipating in jeopardy.

Slapstick is the best term to describe SENTENARYO, from the sound effects to the physical comedy involved, all that was missing was a laugh track. The interesting thing is how it actually came across as funny watching it live. Perhaps it has something to do with the communal reaction in the theater, although those actors deserve a big kudos for pulling this off which, I believe, was a big gamble considering how this style of comedy has been more or less passé for quite some time now. I enjoyed it, and based on the audience reaction I’m sure they did, too. Let’s see if it makes it to the Revisited set next year.

THE DIVINE FAMILY - Amidst the nationwide Enhanced Community Quarantine of 2020, three siblings are forced to cohabitate at their deceased grandmother’s home. Proudly gay Renzo (Alden Co) has been a resident of the house for quite a while. Youngest brother Caloy (AJ Castro) is reluctant to come back but is left without a choice, setting up his remote office in the living room. Only sister Emily (Via Antonio) claims to be fresh out of the convent and won’t stop spewing out bible quotes. To their surprise, their estranged mother Tess (Meliza Reyes) shows up unannounced with a very pregnant belly and due to give birth any day now.

If Sentenaryo relied heavily on physical comedy, THE DIVINE FAMILY was the perfect counterbalance as it offers a style of comedy that is more absurdist and deadpan. In this play, you will laugh at and with the characters as you admire their witty dialogues. In a span of less than an hour, you feel like you already know them so well thanks to good writing. The sudden plot twists end up being just the icing on top of the cake. I wouldn’t be surprised if either this or Sentenaryo ended up as the obligatory comedy in next year’s Revisited list, even though they will surely face stiff competition from Set D’s Sa Babaeng Lahat.

IDENTITÉ - Conservative widow Luz (Kitsi Pagaspas) travels to Manila to pay her daughter Regina (Ash Nicanor) a visit. The young lady has been living on her own at the capital after finishing school. She has always been lauded as a brainy student and is well-regarded in their province. And so is her mother’s shock when she discovers a dildo under her daughter’s sheets, with a lot more of them emerging as they wrestle over a box that she is so unwilling to show her. As emotions begin to abate, mother and daughter sit down for a heart-to-heart talk about sexuality as well as the generation gap that is pulling them apart.

Dildos onstage. A box full of them. Where else will we see such an unabashed theater spectacle? While IDENTITÉ has chosen the rather controversial hook of sexuality, in this case female masturbation, the narrative simply boils down to inter-generational dialogue. My generation finds this or that this or that; your generation should, too. And then you go your separate ways and unfriend each other on Facebook. This play flaunts that ending at us but decides that mother and daughter should instead try to comprehend where each one is coming from. And that’s the beauty of this play. Dialogue. Understanding. Suggesting a compromise most of us are unwilling to make.

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