REVIEW: “Ang Dressing Room” – Onnagata in Filipino translation
Dulaang UP’s Ang Dressing Room is a Filipino rendition by Nicolas Pichay based on the English translation written by Chiori Miyagawa. Both works are based on the original Japanese text written by Shimizu Kunio in 1977.
Ang Dressing Room is a very clever art-imitates-life production that follows four actresses backstage at a staging of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. They are inside a dressing room where Aktres A (Roeder Camanag) and B (Andoy Ranay) are putting on make-up while preparing for their cue, and Aktres C (Gwyn Guanzon) is rehearsing her lines before coming out on stage.
(READ: Dulaang UP Stages Shimizu Kunio’s The Dressing Room)
As the story progresses, we soon realize that Aktres A and B have passed on and are actually ghosts inside the dressing room. Aktres A was killed by a bomb during WWII, and Actress B slit her throat because of a man. Throughout the production, we see them re-live their frustrated acting career as they never got to play the lead roles that they have always wanted — Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the Japanese gambler bandit in Miyoshi Juro’s Slashed Senta, and Nina in Chekhov’s The Seagull. They watch Aktres C perform in earnest as they yearn for the chance to perform in her shoes. Later on, Aktres D (Jon Abella) enters the picture and tries to convince Aktres C to give her back the role that was once supposedly promised to her before she fell ill.
(READ: Roeder Camanag Leads All-male Cast for Female Roles in Dulaang UP’s Ang Dressing Room)
Using the Japanese Onnagata tradition, the four female roles in this production are played by four esteemed male actors. Standouts were easily Camanag as he convincingly portrays the feminine, charming, Japanese Aktres A, and Ranay as the comical Aktres B who injects colloquial Filipino nuances that easily became the crowd favorite.
This play is a unique and captivating portrayal of what life in the theater is like. Almost four decades after this material was written, stories like this still ring true. Similar to the stories of some actors in theater, many of us keep waiting for something to happen, only to find out that time has caught up on us and our dreams have been left unfulfilled.
*Kudos to set designer Ohm David and costume designer Faust Peneyra for taking our consciousness to a beautiful dressing room in post-war Japan.
Have you seen the show? What did you think?