REVIEW: “Twenty Questions” is a mild navigation of forced proximity
The time-tested crowd-pleasing trope ‘there is only one bed’ is the very premise of Juan Ekis’ Twenty Questions. Brought to the stage by Theatre Titas, the attempt is to translate the familiar setup into an intimate theatrical experience. However, this one-act play merely tiptoes around the edges of complex intimacy, with the trope at its center feeling like all the mild young love stories you’ve seen before.
The inhabitants of this portentous hotel room, played by Diego Aranda and Isabelle Prado, present themselves as opposites. Prado, with an initial effervescence, brings a decidedly brash and outgoing character in Yumi, although her performance occasionally teeters towards the excessive. Aranda, playing Jigs, is the more introverted counterpart, embodying a character that can only be described as decidedly prudish. Among the two, Aranda delivers a marginally stronger performance, albeit neither of them make a truly compelling mark.
Directed by Cheese Mendez, the play sees these two characters navigating their forced proximity through a game of “Twenty Questions.” Yet, the revelations that emerge, rather than illuminating the characters and their predicaments, feel haphazardly strewn across the dialogue.
There is a distinct lack of theatrical potential being tapped into, with the direction presenting itself as rudimentary, failing to lift the material into a more incisive realm. Both actors make their attempts, but their performances do not stray far from the safe confines of the script.
This play seems targeted to a younger demographic, or perhaps those who enjoyed Star Cinema-esque romcoms of old. The text, however, does not venture into any profound terrain that real-world dynamics implied between the two characters might present.
While the play hints at explorations of traditional morality and premarital cohabitation, it refrains from deeply engaging with these themes to account for changing times. Similarly, the narrative threads related to sexual experience and societal judgment are left only partially examined, keeping the overall tone of the play rather restrained.
Ekis does little to add depth to tropes and themes or the characters trapped within them. His aim seemed to be generating moments of kilig as his premise demands, but without offering any substantive layers beneath this surface excitement.
Rather than offering an ambitious or even fresh take, the execution of Twenty Questions seems content with settling where it can be most safe. If I were to wager what Yumi and Jigs got up to once the curtains were drawn, I would not be surprised if they merely went to sleep.
Tickets: Php 600.00 Show Dates: May 12 - May 28 Venue: The Mirror Studio, 8463 Kalayaan Ave, Makati Running Time: approx. 50 minutes, no intermission Credits: Juan Ekis (Playwright), Cheese Mendez (Director) Cast: Diego Aranda, Isabelle Prado Company: Theatre Titas