A loose adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic “The Fall of the House of Usher”, director Jay Crisostomo IV and CK Bautista updates and translates the material to tell the tragic tale of the Laperals.
Edna (Gold Villar) is called upon an old friend, Pilar (Mosang) to visit the grand and ancient house of her family. Upon arrival, she meets Dra. Dumas (Marife Necesito) and immediately we can sense that something’s not quite right. We also learn of Anna (Ahlex Leyva), Pilar’s sister, afflicted by an undiagnosed malady. Soon, the disquieting secrets of the Laperals are exposed, and all of the house’s present inhabitants quickly descend into chaotic, incoherent madness.
In this adaptation, Theater House of Black pulls front and center themes that were only implied in Poe’s original text, as well as add and highlight a few more for advocacy purposes.
(SEE: Sights and Sounds- #14 Leandro Road)
There are two sets of casts— one where the lead and the Laperals are all male, and another where they are all female. I could see no real purpose for this play on gender, other than an opening for the ghost of Donya Victorina (Pee Wee O’Hara) to be both sinister and bigoted, and to give an LGBT twist to the plot’s big shocker: there is incest between the Laperal siblings— deftly suggested in Poe, but handled with as much subtlety as a Games of Thrones episode in Leandro Road. The director said there is little difference between the male version and the female version. Shouldn’t it be of significant consequence that the remaining descendants of this old family are female?
(*Disclaimer: The photos were taken during the technical dress rehearsal, a day before opening night. The TDR featured Migui Moreno as Rudy, while opening night featured Mosang as Pilar.)
The show was billed a horror and described as something that “blurs the line between the real world and the supernatural”. It makes sense. The cast would scream and soften, keep still and wriggle about in clear possession of the supernatural. There were Donya Victorina and Consuelo (May Bayot)’s dead forms walking about the stage, too.
As it turns out, their respective afflictions were more explainable, and each cast member enumerated which ills they’re supposedly portraying. Anna has split personality disorder, Pilar is battling with manic depression, and even Edna comes into the house with obsessive compulsion. From what I saw, they all just looked and acted indiscriminately possessed.
For what it’s worth, the show’s female set was chock-full of excellent actors. Perhaps Ms. Villar’s break of sanity, Ms. O’Hara’s ghoulish menace, and Ms. Bayot’s bone-chilling singing would have been more effective had the material and direction been coherent. Ms. Mosang performed with utter anguish and vulnerability on stage, yet it did require a little more than suspension of disbelief that she is a contemporary of Ms. Villar’s Edna, and a twin of Ms. Leyva’s Anna.
The production’s bright spot was, ironically, the dark and atmospheric stage by set designer JC Salud. It made good use of Power Mac Center Spotlight’s blackbox to set an eerie and spooky tone worthy of an Edgar Allan Poe tale. It’s the singular strength of the whole production, coming to life at pivotal moments that prove more compelling than what was happening within it.
14 Leandro Road is presented “in cooperation with” The Philippine Mental Health Association. It’s a noble yet odd attempt, with the play’s simplistic and sophomoric depiction of mental health and penchant focus on shock value and theatrics.
Photography by Erickson dela Cruz