Theater in Manila: Shows to Watch This September

A West End musical, a rock sarswela, and more.

( The purpose of theater, especially in a country that would rather solve poverty and crime, is often questioned and undermined. But when you look at how our writers like sarswelista Aurelio Tolentino and fictionist and journalist Nick Joaquin opened the eyes of Filipinos through their works, you’d see the significance of this form of art. For this month’s lineup, we’re immersed in plays that reflect the tragedies of our time—poverty, the war on drugs, the conflict in Mindanao, and fake news.




Rashomon, a play by Nina Fay and Michael Kanina, is adapted from Ryunosuke Akutagawa's short story of the same title. It reveals how four people from different backgrounds testify about a tragic incident that they each witnessed. It is translated into Filipino by Guelan Varela–Luarca and directed by John Jerome Mongaya.


Rashomon runs from September 6 to 8 at Tanghalang PUP, COC Grounds, Polytechnic Technic University of the Philippines, Anonas Street, Sta. Mesa, Manila. Tickets are on a pay-what-you-can basis.




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Bob Ong's 2007 sixth published work, MacArthur, comes to life through a theater adaptation by the novelist himself. It follows the story of four friends in a rather realistic look at life in a Philippine slum community. MacArthur highlights the tragedy of a society addicted to illegal drugs, especially in this time of “Tokhang.”


MacArthur is on September 8 and 9 and October 20 and 21 at St. Cecilia's Hall, St. Scholastica's College, Leon Guinto Street corner Vito Cruz Street, Malate, Manila. Tickets, priced at P350, are available through Ticketworld.





Paghihintay kay Godot

Playwright Joaquin Cerdas pens a new adaptation of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. The tragicomedy centers on two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, as they wait for the arrival of someone named Godot—who never arrives. It is directed by Jay Crisostomo IV.


Paghihintay kay Godot runs until September 9 at DITO: Bahay ng Sining, J. Molina Street, Concepcion Uno, Marikina City. Tickets, priced at P350, are available through 0917-863-2364.





Blackbird was written in 2005 by Scottish playwright David Harrower. It follows a complex love story between Ray (Bart Guingona) and Una (Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante). Fifteen years earlier, Ray was incarcerated for statutory rape—Una was 12 years of age. Now at 55 and 27, they reunite to confront their conflicting emotions. It is directed by Topper Fabregas.


Blackbird runs until September 10 at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, 4/F RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Tickets, priced from P500 to P1,200, are available through Ticketworld.





Aurelio Sedisyoso

Aurelio Sedisyoso, written by Nicanor Tiongson and directed by Chris Millado, is an original rock sarswela based on the life of Filipino playwright and dramatist Aurelio Tolentino, who was most famous for a verse drama titled Kahapon, Ngayon, at Bukas (1903). Tolentino's script called for tearing up the American flag, which was the reason for his arrest and conviction of sedition and rebellion. Aurelio Sedisyoso stars David Ezra and Baron Geisler.


Aurelio Sedisyoso runs until September 17 at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater), Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City. Tickets, priced from P1,000 to P1,500, are available through Ticketworld.





Happiness is a Pearl

An original play penned by Rody Vera, Happiness is a Pearl is a classic love triangle. There's Kenji, a male courtesan who falls in love with Maria, a poor Pinay Japayuki; and Mari, a married woman who falls in love with Kenji. The catch? The courtesan has a pearl stitched under the skin of his penis.


Happiness is a Pearl runs until September 17 at Arts Above, Artist Playground II, 112 West Venue Building, West Avenue, Quezon City. Tickets, priced at P600, are available through Ticketworld.




Mas Mabigat ang Liwanag sa Kalungkutan

Rogelio Braga's Mas Mabigat ang Liwanag sa Kalungkutan is a timely production on the menacing war in Mindanao. It looks into how the tragedy in Southern Philippines changes the lives of five teenage boys, and calls attention to the impending doom in their own communities. It may be set in 2000, but the voices of a struggling public school teacher, an old matriarch caught in the crossfire, and apathetic Manileños in the play still ring true today.



Mas Mabigat ang Liwanag sa Kalungkutan runs from September 15 to 17 at Teatro Marikina, Shoe Avenue, Sta. Elena, Marikina City. Tickets, priced from P300 to P350, are available through 0916-398-1149.




Si Janus Sílang at ang Labanáng Manananggal-Mambabarang

After a successful run in February of the first book in the Janus Sílang series, Tanghalang Ateneo once again explores the mystical world of nuno, pusong, and bagani in a theatrical adaptation of Edgar Calabia Samar's popular young adult novel. Si Janus Sílang at ang Labanáng Manananggal-Mambabarang continues Janus' search for Tala to defeat the threat of tiyanak to humanity. This time, he is joined by mysterious twins Miro and Mira.


Si Janus Sílang at ang Labanáng Manananggal-Mambabarang runs from September 20 to October 21 at Black Box Theater, Fine Arts Annex, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City. Tickets, priced at P400, are available through Tanghalang Ateneo's Facebook page.





Father and Sons

Father and Sons is a play in three acts by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin, who's celebrating his birth centennial anniversary this year. Viewers also have the option to watch its Filipino translation by National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario and award-winning writer Jose F. Lacaba on designated times. The story follows Zacarias Monzon, a man who used to be powerful in his town but was later tied to a wheelchair. It also highlights the story of his family, one which seems cursed with conflict through generations.


Father and Sons runs until September 24 at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, 2/F Palma Hall, University of the Philippines - Diliman. Tickets, priced at P500, are available through 0917-823-9531.





A Game of Trolls

A Game of Trolls, written by Liza Magtoto and directed by Maribel Legarda, follows Hector (TJ Valderrama), a keyboard warrior and manager of a "call center" who runs a pro-Martial Law campaign online. Because he doesn't have his own stand on the issue, it's easy for him to troll anyone who says the opposite of what he's posting online. He later encounters the ghosts of Martial Law victims, forcing him to reflect on his own beliefs and his mother (Upeng Galang-Fernandez), a former Martial Law activist.


A Game of Trolls runs until September 29 at PETA Theater Center, 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City. Tickets, priced from P1,200 to P1,500, are available through Ticketworld.




The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music is a timeless classic that has captured the hearts of many generations. It is based on the memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, which is set in 1938 Austria and follows Maria (Carmen Pretorius) as she serves as governess to a large family. The September run is a London West End production, but the foreign cast will be joined by 18 Filipino kids to complete the von Trapp family.



The Sound of Music runs from September 27 to October 15 at The Theater at Solaire, Solaire Resort and Casino, 1 Aseana Avenue, Parañaque City. Tickets, priced from P1,500 to P7,000, are available through Ticketworld.




Ang Pag-uusig

Ateneo professor Jerry Respeto translates American playwright Arthur Miller's The Crucible (1953) for a local run as Ang Pag-uusig, which is directed by Dennis Marasigan. The influential play highlights the tragic Salem witch trials in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1690s and portrays the practice of the U.S. government to automatically accuse communists of subversion despite lack of evidence.


Ang Pag-uusig runs from September 29 to October 22 at Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater), Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City. Tickets, priced from P800 to P1,000, are available through Ticketworld.





The Merry Widow

The ballet adaptation of Franz Lehár's romantic operetta of the same title premiered in 1975 at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne. It has since fascinated viewers with its story of forbidden and rekindled love in the beautiful city of Paris.


The Merry Widow is on September 30 and October 1 at Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater), Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City. Tickets, priced from P100 to P1,500, are available through Ticketworld.



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