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Notes on Rep’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’

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An audience member asked on opening night why the iconic (her word) Beauty and the Beast theme was left out of the Repertory Philippines production of the musical. She was, of course, referring to the Alan Menken hit from the Walt Disney label. Rep could sigh in dismay, having categorically stated that their show adopts a different version of the fairy tale; but maybe, just maybe, no one would miss the popular movie tracks had the Michael Valenti score been equally enchanting.

The Laughter Song has got quite a hook (that’s still lodged in my head). As for the rest of the songs, they barely excite the ear, however pleasant-sounding. It doesn’t help that the cast — led by Alana Vicente (Beauty) and Jos Jalbuena (Beast) — seem to be in short supply of energy, unconvinced themselves of what they’re crooning about.

What Rep’s Beauty and the Beast has going for it is: everything else. Bonsai Cielo’s costumes are visual puzzles (Do you put on, slip or morph into a table dress? Is that actua…

Breaking into dance: Notes on ‘Newsies’ and ‘Your highness’

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My mistake was electing to sit at the front row despite knowing that Newsies — the stage adaptation of the Disney film of the same title — would be a visual spectacle. Rights to the award-winning Christopher Gattelli choreography weren’t granted to the show’s local production (as I later on learned); but PJ Rebullida, with a little help from Yek Barlongay, created a choreography that, based on audience reaction, was every bit of a winner.

Co-producers 9 Works Theatrical and Globe Live harped on this dance excellence — a clever decision as the musical’s paper-thin characters and storyline would hardly please the discerning theatergoer or keep the casual fan awake. The narrative was standard Disney: an all-too safe journey between plot points leading to a saccharine resolution. A happy ending lurked from the get-go, and conflicts that arose along the way failed to arouse any sense of danger.

Instead the danger was in the dance. I had seen some of these actors before though not in this f…

Serious talks

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My latest hobby is revisiting tried-and-tested literary titles. The classics. I think that I’m a better, though slower, reader today; and so, in a way, better able to give them the reading that they deserve. Besides, adulthood can be an amazing filter.

Raymond Carver makes so much sense to me now. Stories in What we talk about when we talk about love aren’t exactly slices of life, but more like pieces of jigsaw puzzles. Carver zooms in on an dull moment until he catches characters in a profound split-second. He barely gets into their psyche. The images he uncovers are real enough to cause a jolt of recognition.



What stood out for me in the collection is A serious talk. Burt visits his wife, Vera on Christmas day. The two have children but appear to be separated, at least not living together anymore. He came over to have a serious talk with her — which never happened.

Instead they spoke but skirted anything of importance. In the middle of their non-conversation, Burt lit a cigarette t…

Notes on Broadchurch

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1. Like any other teenager during my time (not sure what fills teenagers' heads nowadays), I fantasized about having a family.

2. The fantasy gave way to other things as I grew older, until it went on reverse: it became the last thing on my mind. Currently, unimaginable.

3. I'll admit. I jumped on the Broadchurch bandwagon because of Jodie Whittaker. BBC announced that she will be the next Doctor in Doctor Who. Not having heard of her before, I googled her works. Broadchurch happens to be available on Netflix, so I binge-watched the series and finished three seasons in two days.

4. I'm excited, by the way, to see a female Doctor. For the simple reason of novelty. I remember enjoying the David Tennant and Katherine Tate combo because the latter isn't the typical young, pretty companion. Am looking forward to this new dynamic between the leads. (Speaking of the show — a by the way within a by the way — Michelle Gomez's Missy is oh-so-fine!)

5. This is very strange. A…

(Not) just like the movie

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Early in the Second Act, three thugs discuss breaking into a convent, their entire strategy hinging on wooing the nuns to let them through without the slightest hesitation. In a rhythm and blues number called, Lady in the long black dress, the men take turns in telling the others how to really do it. “My name is Bones and I’m a Libra. I dig sunsets and strolling on the beach, and loving my neighbor as myself; and right now, baby, I’m standing next door to you,” goes Bones, adopting an ‘80s boy band suavity — husky voice, calculated smirk, and the gait of someone who might be having an upset stomach.

That scene pretty much defines the nature of Sister Act, the stage adaptation of the 1992 blockbuster film starring Whoopi Goldberg. Its intention is clear: to charm. Not exactly to wow. The storyline is straightforward, with no converging plots, twists or flashbacks; and the characters sit somewhere between stereotypes and caricatures. It’s only a question of, Will they pull it off? Will …

I’m your audience for ever

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The title of the play along with its entire story escape me now, but here's what I remember: onstage is a round wooden bath tub where two men are talking. Naturally they are naked, or at least the bare torsos and the show's daring mood suggest nudity all the way down there. One of them says, "Aalis na ako" as he gestures to leave. Behind me a male voice, hushed but panicked: "Huwag!" Then a snigger of relief — from him and his companion, I assume, when the scene ends with neither actor getting up.

That was in college, when watching stage productions was a course requirement. That was also my first experience of a pleasure unique to live performances. Whatever transpires in the audience section is, for better or worse, part of the entertainment. When I saw A little night music, people were singing A weekend in the country to themselves as they wait for Act 2 (Great, the song is stuck in their heads as well). In an attempt to acquaint myself with opera, I acc…

A stranger who’s a friend

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No one is supposed to live in this world friendless. I know the good that friendship does for me but I can’t quite define what a friend is. And the concept grows nebulous — as with all things growing complex — the older you get.

Others have pointed this out. We have no qualifiers for friends the way we’re ever stringent about romantic partners or spouses. A formal declaration must be made for the latter two; guidelines are laid down and regularly revised.

We apply the label to an acquaintance after a warm exchange and maybe laughter over cold beer. Even so, the affection is often one-way, thus we get disappointed or hurt when, in the succeeding days, the other doesn’t assume the shape of our friend mould. The lack of rules negates our right to be mad.

I am interested in the pull that’s felt upon meeting someone for the first time. That connection or the strong desire to connect, even to care deeply. Sometimes we’re happy to be with the same people at a distance. Like the waitress who …

Retrograde

Today I was honest when a friend asked, How are you? I said things are moving so slow. With the certainty of a mother whose job it is to trick her child into calmness (silence) he blurted, It'll pick up. Am no child so my sincere response was, How did you know?

"Coz we're in retrograde." Again the certitude.

Now I'm one of those who has no clue, except for its negative connotation, what a retrograde is — even if I do read my sun, moon, and rising signs forecast — but at this point he was really convincing.

"So it's okay for me to be sad?"

"Embrace it."

Peak of perfection

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Bring me flowers. It'll make my day. Perfect gifts, they are: highly symbolic and practical. A bouquet of flowers is a burst of emotions. It's alive and real at the moment — it'll die soon. And so like feelings it must be renewed, reasserted over and over. And so bring me flowers again, and again.

Trinkets are tacky, food is messy, but flowers, you can assign any meaning to them and they unburden the receiver of clutter. Flowers discard themselves by wilting.



Teaching myself the art of arranging flowers, I came across this tip, which makes me think of a princess locked in a castle:
Sometimes people think they should set their vase of flowers in a sunny windowsill since that is where a plant would be happiest. However, cut flowers are actually the opposite of potted plants. They are at their peak of perfection. Sun and heat will encourage them to "mature" and thus quicken their demise. Instead, keep your cut flowers in a cool dark spot if you would like them to las…

Sun-shower

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Not sadness for a loss of life but a pang of nostalgia. That's how I felt when I heard about Chris Cornell's death.

The afternoon weather was rather relaxed. Rain cooled the air. We welcome this given what seemed like summer baking in infernal heat. Late lunch was made, served, had. Logged on to Netflix. Watched the stupid but nevertheless entertaining Stephen King novel-inspired Secret Window.

Peeked at Twitter (or returned to Twitter after a quick dip into life?). There the news was.

Whatever sadness I felt, it was directed towards the fans awaiting the band's next gigs. I know I can put myself in their shoes. I do love Soundgarden, though I may not have followed them as intently. Cornell's voice will remain — I don't see it within the context of gender or genre, it just is magnificent.

Naturally went on a binge—

My favorite


Quintessence of badassery


Missing this brand of loud


—Reminded of how grand, how badass Soundgarden and Chris Cornell were.

Many say the 90s is…

Here for romance

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The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin is saying something important about man's proprietary interests. Printed in the back of my limited edition copy (bought it for the pretty cover design) is the quote, 'All you have is what you are, and what you give.' It reminds me of these words of wisdom (from the Disney cartoon, Committed), which has stuck with me ever since: 'What you have is not yours, what you give is yours.'


But I'm reading for the romance. By romance I mean this ideal relationship with a sexual component between two people.

I find the notion of ownership in romantic relationships barbaric. I confess, conquest is exhilarating — among all the women vying for his attention, he chooses me. I have made him mine. I, however, shiver with disgust whenever I think about myself or someone I love, like a friend or a relative, being 'owned' by someone else.

Whatever happens within the frame of this partnership must be set in motion, perpetuated and preser…

Disco perfection

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I have this playlist called 'Flavor of the now'. Title's self-explanatory, no? Songs there have a short shelf life. May, however, seems to be my new-music month. Two releases have blown my mind, a single by Ghastly and Matthew Koma and an LP from Ed Banger Records (on the 26th, Rita Ora is dropping Your song — but that's topic for later). My favorite artists are loving me back.

These tracks have been enjoying a longer run on FOTN. They're on repeat since Thursday (an advantage of living this side of the world is our Friday arrives earlier, so I got to sort of preview them); and are currently playing in the background as I type this.

1. We might fall – Ghastly, Matthew Koma



It's so simple and so direct. So clear in what it wants to say. I never really take lyrics seriously but this hits home. I knew it was good as I somewhat felt annoyed after a few listens.

Could you come a little closer but still keep your distance. I realize this is a cliché yet it's also n…

Weekend (sort of) double bill

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Over the weekend I saw two stage performances: one a preview, the other a premiere; one by a college drama guild, the other by a professional theater outfit. Both musicals, both tell familiar tales — one concerning politics, the other, religion.

The former, Lean; the latter, Godspell.
Lean: If all else fails, there’s music Will Gary Granada please write more musicals?

The composer injects a dose of rock with patriotic élan into UP Naming Mahal that any listener, regardless of alma mater, will find a connection to the anthem. Without neglecting its humor, he turns the pejorative catchphrase ‘Only in the Philippines’ into a full-on critique of the national elections in Dito lang sa Pilipinas. These, along with other rousing Granada-penned songs, I heard at the concert preview of Lean last Friday.


Lean is short for Leandro Alejandro, the name of prominent UP student and nationalist shot dead in 1987. The musical, which revolves around his activism, premiered in 1997 and featured OPM arti…

Welcome at any rate

(The first half of Joseph Brodsky's Song of welcome. I would love to recite this someday, somewhere to some or someone, maybe read it to my niece once she's grown up.)

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Song of Welcome
Joseph Brodsky

Here’s your mom, here’s your dad.
Welcome to being their flesh and blood.
Why do you look so sad?

Here’s your food, here’s your drink.
Also some thoughts, if you care to think.
Welcome to everything.

Here’s your practically clean slate.
Welcome to it, though it’s kind of late.
Welcome at any rate.



Here’s your paycheck, here’s your rent.
Money is nature’s fifth element.
Welcome to every cent.

Here’s your swarm and your huge beehive.
Welcome to the place with its roughly five
billion like you alive.

Welcome to the phone book that stars your name.
Digits are democracy’s secret aim.
Welcome to your claim to fame.



Here’s your marriage, and here’s divorce.
Now that’s the order you can’t reverse.
Welcome to it; up yours,

Here’s your blade, here’s your wrist.
Welcome to play…

The soul of Wit

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It will strike different chords with different folks. With someone who majored in Literature and whose reflexes include poetry, Margaret Edson’s Wit is a chaffing reminder that command of language is in the slightest degree command of life; and mastery of the highest form of literature does not save one from leading a corny life.

50-year-old Vivian Bearing, PhD is a professor of seventeenth-century poetry, specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne. She’s ready to die. Resigned, at least, to a future contained in a ‘two-hour glass’. Enough time for her to muse about mortality in front of an obliging audience.

Professors (the better ones) are precisely that: performers. Dr Bearing makes the theater her lecture hall. The subject, we’re not sure. Stage-four metastatic ovarian cancer? Metaphysical wit? Punctuations turning worlds upside-down? Kindness, meaning? Until her very last minutes, she needs to parse everything:

I am not in isolation because I have cancer… I am in isolation b…

Not my life's background music

I'm not worthy of Jai Wolf's music.

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My EDM Northern Star and dear friend (LOL), Matthew Koma, announced that he's releasing a track with one Jai Wolf this April 21. So therefore I Spotified Jai.

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I fell asleep to this playlist — which has been on loop the entire day today — and will probably put me to sleep again tonight.



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Heavenly but also dark synths, flirtations with RnB, depth. That's it. There's depth to his music, and I'm not talking about lyrics, but the entire soundscape — the creative decision-making behind it. (Thank you for putting this note after that note...)

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My life is so banal to have him playing in the background.

His music feels like something you play in a pristine penthouse, on a cool night and your heart is cold. Something you play after a disaster you haven't recognized yet.

Electric shock

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1.

I don’t have it in me to laugh at a woman who, for the first time in her life, learns how to pleasure herself. Nor at a woman who begs to be touched by a man, by her husband no less.

When I saw a preview of In the next room or the vibrator play, I was wary of cheap laughs drawn upon people’s ignorance over their bodies and objects being inserted where they can somehow fit. But the play is far from callow. The latter half of the title is a nasty trick, though, to incite curiosity; for the crux of the story is marital disconnection. Playwright Sarah Ruhl has written a clever drama, which humor is only incidental, never its driving force as what the adverts would have you believe.

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“That is how he fell in love with me, he said he was determined to keep up with me — he only saw the back of my head before we married because I was always one step ahead. He said he had to marry me to see my face,” Catherine Givings talks about her passion for walking and her husband Dr. Givings, a gyne…

Real / "real"

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Thoughts on Red Turnip Theater’s production of The Nether by Jennifer Haley. (Originally published on GIST)

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Say I have a perverted fantasy: dismember a child after intercourse. I rewind the scene each night in my head. Can you call me a criminal?

Say, elsewhere, another person has mutilation fantasies, and we discover a place where the imagined briefly comes to life. There we meet to satisfy, consentingly, our darkest desires. Are we committing a crime?

That imagination and reality share the same space in the mind is the most appealing theme in Jennifer Haley’s sci-fi drama, The Nether. Simply, The Nether is virtual realm. Somewhere in it, businessman Sims (Bernardo Bernardo) has built the Hideaway, a pedophile-slash-ax-murderer’s playground, which superior coding enables a life-like experience (think Black Mirror’s San Junipero).

Detective Morris (Jenny Jamora) is out to get Sims, believing that his Hideaway is dangerous and immoral. For her, when people spend entire days in that …

I'm a friend of Matthew's

I just admire Matthew Koma. I will always wish him well. The first time I interviewed him (for his first show at Chaos Manila), I was surprised by his wisdom and candor. He says the most practical and at the same time profound things. He's witty and chill. My kind of guy.

Last week, March 11 to be exact, he came back for another show, and I did everything I could (which wasn't much, since the people at Chaos were super cool) to score another one-on-one with him for GIST. Matthew was in a better mood. He remembered me!

Told him it was my birthday the day before and that his show was my birthday gift to myself. After the interview, I asked for an updated selfie and told him, 'I want us to look like we're friends,' to which he quickly replied, 'We ARE friends'.

But the best thing that happened that night was he gave me a hug — an actual hug, you know, with pressure.


@matthewkoma accepted my real-life friend request. Happy birthday, indeed, to me. #MatthewKoma #…

The incandescent Jef

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(Had the pleasure of sitting down with theater actor, Jef Flores. We talked about his career as well his latest play, In the next room or the vibrator play. The interview originally appeared on GIST.)

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Don't call Jef Flores an award-winning actor“You have permission to slap me in the face if I turned into a douchebag,” actor Jef Flores asks us to mark his words, so here it is on record.

He has every reason to fear it: since making his debut in professional theater five years ago — without any training, save for doing improv and being a musician back in the States where he grew up — Jef has been cast in some of the most successful productions by a diverse set of theater outfits, and in 2015 snagged a Philstage Gawad Buhay Award for best male lead performance in a play.

His latest gig: artist Leo Irving in Repertory Philippines’ In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play. The title may well be a marketing ploy, as Sarah Ruhl’s tale, though billed as a comedy, reads like a domestic drama.…