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REVIEW: 7 ‘Control+Shift’ One-Act Shows from PETA

REVIEW: 7 ‘Control+Shift’ One-Act Shows from PETA

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Different stories that show how narratives can change and are changing are at the heart of this one-act play festival.

In the Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (PETA) latest venture, from explorations of personal challenges and societal issues to imaginative takes on folklore and the digital age, each play contributes a distinct voice to the overarching theme of changing narratives.

1. “Momsilogues” 

(written by Zoe Damag, Julia Enriquez, Pia Viola, and Gold Villar-Lim; directed by Gold Villar-Lim)

“Momsilogues” is a unique blend of culinary metaphor and personal storytelling, penned by the collaborative efforts of multiple playwrights. The play innovatively uses the elements of tapsilog as symbols for the distinct challenges faced by three mothers, each grappling with their own poignant narrative. One mother is navigating life after the loss of her husband, another struggles to support her family in economically trying times, while the third seeks a fresh start after escaping an abusive marriage. Despite the creative premise, the execution falls short: the monologues, while heartfelt, tend to overstay their welcome, diluting their impact due to repetitiveness. Something about it skews towards the simplistic, which may be easy to understand, but leaves one looking for a more nuanced exploration of the realities of modern Filipino motherhood.

2. “Ang Mga Halimaw sa Compound Z” 

(written by Sabrina Basilio; directed by Norbs Portales)

In “Ang Mga Halimaw sa Compound Z,” playwright Sabrina Basilio and director Norbs Portales bring to life a dystopic world that shows the age-old story of oppressor vs oppressed. The play initiates with a display of indoctrination, as ‘halimaws’ sing about their reformation under a totalitarian regime, a scene that sets the stage for an exploration of conformity vs resistance. Central to the narrative is a journalist (Basilio)’s interaction with these ‘halimaws’, particularly with a young female resistant (Felicity Kyle Napuli), whose character encapsulates the struggle against societal brainwashing. While Basilio’s prose is commendable for its ambition in crafting this complex world, the play, as a one-act, feels somewhat constrained, hinting at a broader lore that remains tantalizingly unexplored. The play stands as a would-be potent metaphor for the universal battle against oppressive forces if it only gets the chance to be entirely fleshed out.

3. “Albularyo” 

(direction, concept, and choreography by Carlon Matobato; dramaturgy by Ian Segarra)

“Albularyo,” a play entirely told through dance, is a visually atmospheric exploration of Filipino folk healing. The thirty-minute performance features Matobato as the Albularyo, adorned in recognizable garb, alongside a cast of dancers (Noelle Polack, Ekis Gimenez, Mico Esquivel, Carlos Deriaga, and Raflesia Bravo) whose minimal costumes show them to be bodies and Earth itself. While the show’s intention to parallel the healing of bodies and the nation is ambitious, its storytelling through dance alone proves somewhat opaque, making it a challenge to fully grasp its narrative and political undertones. Artistic projections in the background hint at a deeper political message, yet these elements are subtly woven and easy to overlook. Despite this, there is evident meticulous attention to detail here that hints at deeper layers that might reward those more dance-inclined.

4. “Children of the Algo” 

(written by Mixkaela Villalon; directed by John Moran)

“Children of the Algo,” is a distinctive foray into the world of Gen Z content creators, showing their struggles in the digital age. The play’s format, mirroring the brevity and rapid-fire pace of TikTok videos, is an inventive approach to storytelling, although its extended duration felt somewhat taxing as the narrative of the one-act gets more complex. The characters, from a provincial youth grappling with urban life, a corporate girl trying to keep up with societal pressures, a gamer bro wrestling with toxic masculinity, and a young girl torn between artistic passions and economic realities, are portrayed with a verve that is emblematic of their generation. The play ends with the radicalization of one of the characters, the idealistic way it went viral and the even more idealistic way people seemed to have banded behind him leaving audiences the impression that at least in this story, viral activism might have led to real change.

5. “Kislap at Fuego” 

(written by Dominique La Victoria; directed by Maribel Legarda and J-mee Katanyag; Filipino translation by Gentle Mapagu)

Dominique La Victoria’s “Kislap at Fuego” is a captivating one-act play that ingeniously blends elements of magical realism, folklore, and historical narrative, presented under the adept direction of Maribel Legarda and J-mee Katanyag. Starring the immensely popular duo of Jerald Napoles and Kim Molina, the play captivates with its unique plot revolving around an unlikely romance between a kapre and a young woman set against the backdrop of the Philippine Revolution. The chemistry between Napoles and Molina is the heart of the play, providing a delightful mix of comedic and romantic elements that keeps the audience engaged. Intertwining historical events and romance with mythical elements, the play was thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. It’s one show that left the audience longing for more.

6. “/Slash” 

(written by Liza Magtoto; directed by Meann Espinosa)

Liza Magtoto’s ‘/Slash’ ambitiously delves into the complex dynamics of friendship in the age of social media cancellation, a narrative seldom explored with such depth. The play intricately navigates the moral and personal dilemmas faced by an influencer, Xendy, as she grapples with the fallout of her best friend’s public downfall. This resonant theme aligns perfectly with the festival’s ‘Control+Shift’ motif, emphasizing the power and fragility of narratives in shaping lives. However, the production stumbles with its lead performances; Yeyin Dela Cruz and Ian Segarra struggle to convey the nuanced emotional landscape of their characters, diminishing the play’s true potency. Furthermore, the ending, with Xendy’s perplexing decision to rehabilitate her friend’s image despite significant personal risks, lacks clarity and depth in its staging, leaving the audience questioning why she made that decision at all.

7. “Ang Parangal” 

(direction & concept by Eric dela Cruz, adaptation & co-conceptualized with Michelle Ngu-Nario)

“Ang Parangal,” ambitiously adapts Milos Forman’s “The Fireman’s Ball” to a Filipino setting. In its portrayal of a barangay celebration gone awry, the play oscillates between deliberate chaos and pointed satire. This chaos, while at times seemingly teetering on the brink of losing control, mirrors the underlying theme of distraction used by those in power to veil their misdeeds. The play excels in juxtaposing the apparent ineptitude of local leaders with their cunning ability in corruption and deception, painting a stark picture of governance at the grassroots level. However, despite its innovative approach, “Ang Parangal” treads familiar ground, echoing well-known narratives about pervasive corruption without adding significantly new insights to the discourse.


Tickets: Php 600.00
Show Dates: January 12-21, 2024
Venue: Studio Theater, PETA Theater Center
Running Time: approx. 3 – 4 hrs w/ 10 min intermission after every one-act
Company: Philippine Educational Theater Association

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