Studio Connections International’s – in partnership with Dela Salle College of St. Benilde School of Design and Arts’ – 2015 Philippine production of the tragic Haring Lear is a majestic and sophisticated incarnation of one of Shakespeare’s most enduring tapestries of family portraits embroiled within political power struggles fueled by passion, betrayal and deception.
This Bienvenido Lumbera Filipino-translated version (set in a modern, post-nuclear backdrop) should be touted as the much needed, courageous thespian leap that will ultimately advance the cause to reinvigorate the dulling pallor of the Filipino language.
Haring Lear breathes exquisite life into long forgotten Filipino words such as Mangangaso (hunter in English) – among countless others. However, this show is more than just an astute exhibit of breathtaking dynamics marrying poignant dramatics with theatrical visual arts, this is also – arbitrarily or not – language education at it’s finest: cultural exposure layered with a touch of theatrical immersion.
In this comeback vehicle for Philippine theater icon Bernardo Bernardo, reveals his unquestioned supremacy and clout as an actor gifted with an extensive affinity for Shakespearean theater – with a Master’s Degree in Theatre Arts from UCLA to top it all off – as he royally and masterfully preens in his regal robes, boomingly yet eloquently delivering a curse-filled monologue, and as we near the end of the play, unabashedly cowers in agony over the death of his beloved Cordelia.
It is no revelation that the entire ensemble (featuring luminaries Garry Lim, Buddy Caramat, George De Jesus and Abner De Lima) pushes this production to further heights of divine magnificence – as they all purposefully revel in their greatness, with the very air around them teeming with the enchantment they cast with each purposeful gesture and every pointed enunciation.
Director Nonon Padilla is the perfect kind of genius to helm this groundbreaking production – with his Spartan-like attention to movement and tonality, Haring Lear might very well be his most accomplished, extensive canvass to date.
The set/production design combines a sleek and contemporary feel with the fluidity and charming functionality of this production’s multi-leveled stage. Jonjon Villareal’s lighting is a Shakespearean microcosm of voices boosting the accentuation of the seasoned actors’ nuanced takes on the English playwright’s immortal King Lear characters.
The theatrical asides and soliloquies were magnificently explored and delivered; the sharp movements transmuting into the methodical probes that effectively haunt and stir the subconscious. The word haunting is aptly used to describe characterization movements because it is what the actors here provide: like pantomimes and kabuki players who have the uncanny ability to burn the surreal and disturbing into a spectator’s mind, and in this production, as bodies with voices, they become doubly powerful and affective in giving the viewers the shivers.
This is a magnificent production – a Shakespearean masterpiece painstakingly and lovingly staged – perhaps as haunting as what can be seen only through the camera lens of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.