Written by Dan Hollanda and inspired by British playwright’s short story entitled W. Somerset Maugham, Lagablab is a story about a Filipino family living through the last 9 months of the heinous Japanese occupation in World War II.
(READ: Artist Playground’s Lagablab Features Desolation During Japanese Occupation)
We find Chayong, a young, intelligent woman excitedly asking for her parents’ blessing to marry her boyfriend Unyo. With Chayong’s younger brother Carding, they were a happy family of four, whose main concern was to eke out a living as drought continued to threaten their livelihood in the mountains.
As the story progresses, Unyo tells Chayong that they need to postpone their marriage because he needs to join the fight against the Japanese. That same evening, a Japanese soldier named Hirohito comes into Chayong’s home and rapes her in a fit of drunkenness and lust, while his companions hurt Carding and their father Andong. Months later, it is revealed that Chayong has become pregnant with a son.
In a state of remorse, Hirohito tries to repent by constantly visiting the family, giving them food, and proposing marriage to Chayong. Chayong, on the other hand, is enraged by the very thought of him.
As the play unfolds, the family endures more pain, while the rest of the country feels the full extent of war. Lawlessness, rape, unjustified torture and death were part of everyday society, and the family does what it can to survive.
The play is a powerful piece that shows what the human spirit is capable of in the direst conditions. What values, what principles will be put on hold in order to survive? Where should one draw the line?
This theme was put forth most profoundly by Sheryll Villamor Ceasico, who plays the mother, Pilang. Her performance brings a lot of subtext; her character is practical, realistic, and in her mind knows exactly when to push and when to pull back for the preservation of her family. Ceasico has shown a mastery of her character and perfects the balance without going overboard in any direction, and consequently makes the audience member feel perplexed– should s/he be angry or should s/he empathize?
Jhaeka Madronio too was a stand out as she seems to have completely become one with her character. The pain and the rage that she exudes whenever she’s on stage is palpable. It was a pleasant surprise to hear that this is, in fact, her first-ever lead role in a play.
One of the things that people can always look forward to when watching a production by Artist Playground is how well the artistic team transforms the 65-sqm space in Landsdale Tower. The set of Lagablab, which became a humble, bamboo-based home of the Bulacan-based family, did not disappoint.
Kudos to director Paul Jake Paule and to artistic director Roeder Camanag for staging such an important and timely piece. It is indeed one of the most painful parts of our history that should never be forgotten.
The show will run from September 23-October 30, Fridays to Sundays, at The Little Room Upstairs, 1701 Landsdale Tower, 86 Mother Ignacia Cor. Timog Ave, QC.