Review: Tanghalang Ateneo’s Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon
Tanghalang Ateneo, with director Charles Yee, has taken on the brave task of bringing Edgar Calabia Samar’s bestselling young adult novel, “Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon”, to the stage.
The story follows adolescent Janus Silang whose world is turned upside down when characters from his favorite computer game and comic book (TALA) appear and disrupt his personal life, forcing him to confront the mystery of his bloodline and his destiny. It’s a story that engages, with one twist after another in its 1.5 hour run.
(READ: Tanghalang Ateneo Stages Award-Winning Bestseller, ‘Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon’)
Upon entering the theater, one immediately sees the contemporary and stylized set design by Gwyn Guanzon. He mentions that what we see on stage is the fourth design he and Yee came up with, but it was worth the trouble. With the help of lighting designer Meliton Roxas, the backdrop of the stage is lit with binary boards that simulate the world of computer gaming juxtaposed with a modernly designed tabon cave shaped in the form of towering hexagons.
With the creative direction of Yee, whose work I’ve most recently seen in Tanghalang Ateneo’s Kalantiaw and in the Virgin Labfest’s Ang Sugilanon ng Kabiguan ni Epifania, we are brought into a contemporary, dystopian world where local folklore is more than just fiction. His signature way of narrating stories within stories is palpable in this production. The transitions are clear and sleek, and he has assembled a talented student cast led by Ateneo high school senior Earvin Estioco.
One can see Yee’s stylistic direction in the use of fingers to simulate how wired in the characters were with no computers in sight, as well as the hustle and bustle of the commute to Metro Manila without the use of a single stage prop.
Adding to the production’s cult-hit status are the colloquial text messages and Facebook wall posts, as well as fictionalized TV Patrol segments cleverly projected on hexagon-shaped screens. Costume design by Mitoy Sta. Ana and the eerie music and sound design by Toni Munoz easily transports the audience through the haunting and adventurous narrative.
With Yee’s stylistic direction, Guanzon’s production design, and Guelan Luarca’s stage adaptation, the play is bound to be a hit. The material is already so, as it’s been fondly called the “Harry Potter of the Philippines”. It will soon be adapted to a TV series for ABS-CBN later this year. This means that the first book in the series will have already gone through three different mediums in the span of three years.
After the show, a wide number of enthusiastic fans took selfies with the cast. After all, it’s not everyday one can see their favorite literary characters come alive.
Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon will run at the Rizal Mini Theater of the Ateneo de Manila University until February 25, 2017.
You can buy tickets here.