REVIEW: Riveting thought experiments in ‘Kumprontasyon’
It’s a thrilling collection, directed by Lee to extract its most intriguing beats; performed enthrallingly by the cast, and written by playwrights who deliciously exhausted and explored their respective concepts.
Melvin Lee’s ‘Kumprontasyon’ seem to confront us with something interesting about our collective selves as politically and historically-aware Filipinos: that our political psyche is centralized around how our past presidents behaved, and how we have, across all of our republic’s young history–starting from our very first president–taken their ill behavior rather personally. As well we should; because the alternative is to lose it all to history and as is the perennial question of most politically-charged pieces for the stage: look at where that has brought us.
The collection of 3 one-act plays in ‘Kumprontasyon’ are characters confronting each other, but also the audience being confronted with each of the show’s blazing ideas, questions, and even castigation that these are the leaders we have chosen and continue to choose, and how many more plays must there be mounted for us to learn our lessons?
It’s a thrilling collection, directed by Lee to extract its most intriguing beats; performed enthrallingly by the cast, and written by playwrights who deliciously exhausted and explored their respective concepts to implant not so much thoughts, but questions, inside of its viewers’ brains, provoking at least this writer to ask herself, ‘Why isn’t this the Aguinaldo we are taught in school?’ or, ‘Why have we diluted contemporary Filipino politics into this binary of two political dynasties?’ or, ‘What choices have I made that were the direct result of the 2022 Presidential Elections?’
In ‘Lakambini,’ written by Allan Palileo, we find Gregoria De Jesus over 30 years since the death of Andres Bonifacio, finally face-to-face with the man who signed his death warrant, Emilio Aguinaldo. These historical figures have appeared in many plays and musicals, but they have never appeared more real than when they are played by Sherry Lara and Teroy Guzman in a lengthy dialogue that is devoid of theatrics. Lara was an intimidating, fascinating Oryang while Guzman was maddening in his posturing manner. As their conversation unfold, you are confronted by the disconnect between the Aguinaldo of your history textbooks, and the Aguinaldo finally seen with a critical, even ‘woke’ eye. Apparently based on true events, you do hope Oryang was able to confront Miong about the blood in his hands.
In ‘The Impossible Dream,’ by Guelan Luarca, we are confronted with yet another president, and his ‘most formidable foe.’ It’s interesting that the Marcos v Aquino narrative is so embedded in the fabric of our culture that Luarca can craft this thoroughly quixotic thought experiment and everyone in the audience will just get it. The most experimental, most surprising about this one-act might be the supposition that they ever saw each other as true equals–pals, or ‘brad’s that were merely different sides of the same coin. Luarca’s text is the star here (even with the surprisingly delightful Romnick Sarmenta and equally magnetic Ron Capinding)–full of a self-awareness and 4th-wall breaking dialogue that make you just hang onto every single word form start to finish. It’s unnerving and witty, and posed a thought so provocative it might as well be taboo: that maybe both of them did our country no favors.
Joshua Lim So’s ‘A Color For Tomorrow’ is a confrontation of the past self. It paints a not-so-distant future where we can talk to our past selves as a form of therapy. In this one-act, the main character (played by Missy Maramara) confronts her past selves to make better sense of how she got to where she is now in her present. Of the three one-acts, this is the one that urges one to reflect, to examine if and how the way we voted and behaved and believed in 2022 has contributed to our selves today and who we will be in the future. It puts on stage and confronts us with our rose-colored idealism, maybe even our cynicism and jadedness in the aftermath, and asks us who we plan to be in the future because of it.
‘Kumprontasyon’ does not offer easy answers of where we ought to go from here. Instead, it posed a challenge for its audience: to confront, to question, and ultimately, to choose the role they will play in shaping the narrative of our nation.
Tickets: Php 600.00 Show Dates: January 19-21, 2024 Venue: Main Theater, PETA Theater Center Running Time: approx. 3hrs and 30 mins w/ 8 min intermission after every one-act Credits: Melvin Lee (director), Allan Palileo (playwright, Lakambini), Guelan Luarca (playwright, The Impossible Dream), Joshua Lim So (playwright, A Color for Tomorrow), Eric dela Cruz (dramaturg), Carlo Villafuerte Pagunaling (production design), Sage Ilagan (sound design), Kaan Bautista (co-sound designer), JD Santiago (video design), David Esguerra (lighting design), Jomelle Era (choreography) Cast: Sherry Lara, Teroy Guzman, Romnick Sarmenta, Ron Capinding, Missy Maramara, Adrienne Vergara, Uzziel Delamide, Eric Dela Cruz, Carlon Matobato Company: Philippine Educational Theater Association