REVIEW: Power, Powerlessness in ‘Ang Dalagita’y ‘sang Bagay na Di-buo’

Skyzx Labastilla; photo by Adrian Begonia

A vigorous and layered study on the simultaneous state of power and powerlessness of a sexually abused person is what’s on offer for Dulaang UP’s 3rd offering in its current season.

In “Ang Dalagita’y ‘sang Bagay na Di-buo”, a young woman competently and intensely played by Skyzx Labastilla is at the center. Brava to her stamina in delivering all the lines of the 110-minute one-act play as she essayed various roles. Missy Maramara, Opaline Santos, and Hariette Damole alternate with Labastilla as the nameless Girl, who is perennially dressed in black.

Directed by José Estrella, the one-woman show steadily, mightily marches for 1 hour and 50 minutes, without intermission. There is no careening or floundering, the production forges ahead as soon as it starts. By the end of the show, one is wearied by the heaviness of the unidentified girl’s circumstances, especially by her choice of mode in liberating herself from her predicament.

Overcoming vacillation, the girl showed steely resolve and confidence in pursuing her “freedom”. The final scenes must be cited for the artistic team’s exceptional execution of the optical illusion of a body of water. Issa Manalo-Lopez is assistant director, Barbie Tan-Tiongco is lighting design and technical consultant, Joyce Garcia did the video design, Jon Lazam is in charge of sound design while Carlo Pagunaling designed the costume.

Rody Vera translated into Filipino the Annie Ryans’ stage adaptation of Eimear McBride’s first novel, “A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.” Vera, in “Notes from the Translator,” confessed that the process of translating “the harrowing piece took months of passing it back and forth among the dramaturgs, the director, the actors, and myself.” The play has four dramaturgs: Ina Azarcon-Bolivar, Bryan Viray, Jem Javier, and Sir Anril Tiatco.

“We had continuous discussions about the translation per se, clarifying the lines that must have been deliberately made cryptic, about whether it is better to re-locate the original setting of the play from being vaguely Irish to vaguely Pinoy, the pros and cons of adapting, even questioning the very choice of the work,” Vera said.

“All these uncertainties became our greatest obstacles, as well as our best advantage in bringing the monodrama to stage life,” Vera said.

The set design by Justiniani and Mallari transformed the Wilfrido Maria Guerrero Theater stage into an all-black rectangular “box” which could be an allusion to the disempowerment of a sexually abused victim. Whether in Ireland or in the Philippines, a sexually abused victim undergoes different magnitudes of powerlessness, guilt, confusion interspersed with a tentative sense of power over her or his circumstances.
The victim is repeatedly pounded, hounded, haunted, pained, or tormented by memories of the abuse. Dulaang UP’s “Ang Dalagita’y ‘sang Bagay na Di-buo” is an important and impressive production aimed at educating all Filipinos on the long-term effects of sexual abuse.

The Philippine premiere of “A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing” / Ang Dalagita’y ‘sang Bagay Na Di-buo is presented through the Wylie Agency (UK) Ltd.The play runs until March 11; Wednesdays to Fridays, at 7:00 pm; Saturdays and Sundays, at 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, 2nd Floor Palma Hall, UP Diliman.

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