REVIEW: Sustainable conversations in “Lungs”


Lungs, Jake Cuenca
Jake Cuenca and Sab Jose; photo c/o The Sandbox Collective

The millennials are having less babies and less marriages, and Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs explores a few reasons why that may be so. M and W, whilst shopping at an IKEA, are having a big conversation: should they have a baby?

W is immediately a ball of nerves, spooked by the very idea of it. It’s not that she doesn’t want any, it’s just that bringing a child means adding 10,000 tonnes of carbon footprint in an already climate-changed world. M then argues that the world will be all the poorer if smart people stopped having babies. It’s 90 minutes of oft-comical back and forth between a couple in their life-long relationship.

Director Andrei Pamintuan encases the pair on a bare stage, in an outlined cube with lights (set designer is Jodinand Aguillon with lights by Miguel Panganiban) used to aid scene transitions. Aguillon’s costumes of matching muted tones also help give the effect of minimalist and sterile modernity. It all comes together to paint a portrait of a young, intellectual, and privileged couple with options and lifestyles you often see on TV.

Pamintuan’s bare bones aesthetic will appeal to The Sandbox Collective’s millennial demo, but it also works to make sure Sab Jose and Jake Cuenca (in his theater debut) have nothing to hide behind. The audience is at all sides (the configuration is in the round), and while it tries to give the viewers an experience of watching a couple’s intimate conversations as though they live in a glass house, the blocking and movement is often almost too theatrical that sometimes didn’t feel organic to Macmillan’s real-time almost unfiltered flow of dialogue.

Lungs raises interesting questions on procreation, but spoken in conversations that go miles a minute, and before the ethical dilemmas of childrearing take hold, another neurosis is explored. But, the show’s two actors are a riveting pair that you’re taken in by their performances even when the pace doesn’t sit long enough for better comprehension.

Cuenca’s M is bug-eyed and overwhelmed from the get-go but to engaging effect. Jose performs W’s taxing dialogue and pace with real ease and charm. They’re fairly equally matched, and their superb chemistry makes the comedy all the more entertaining and the drama quite affecting. If the show dips when the material suddenly pivots into something serious, the limitations are with the piece, because both Cuenca and Jose deliver an even performance from beginning to end as best they could.

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