10 Shows From 2017 That Deserve a Standing Ovation
Our picks from some of the most exceptional shows in theater this year
(SPOT.ph) We often think of protests as mass actions on the streets where people carry placards, stand in picket lines, and shout their concerns through a megaphone. But in 2017—a time of constant political unrest, we see a different way of making a statement in the Philippines: Theater.
We round up 10 shows that were not only exceptional on the technical side of performing arts (directing, acting, and production design
Hair gives us a closer look at the hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of 1960s New York. It was a time when the long-haired 20-somethings came together to protest against the Vietnam War. At the heart of the musical is native Oklahoma farm boy Claude (played alternately by Markki Stroem and Topper Fabregas) who has to make a decision on whether to honor being drafted in the U.S. army or live out a life that promotes love, peace, and freedom. We find out later that he chooses the former, but not before we see how this band of young men and women brings the audience to their senses and highlights the problems of 1960s America (and the world in general): Discrimination, violence, poverty, sexism, and capitalism.
Hair (Repertory Philippines) opened in November at the Onstage Theater in Makati City.
Angry Christ's main story may focus on the life of Filipino-American abstract expressionist artist Alfonso Ossorio (played by Nel Gomez), but plot lines dealing with national identity, discrimination, homosexuality, and oligarchy run in the background. The artist is a
Angry Christ (Dulaang UP) opened in April at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater in the University of the Philippines - Diliman.
Blackbird follows a complex relationship between 55-year-old Ray (Bart Guingona) and 27-year-old Una (Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante). When she was 12, she had a three-year relationship with then-40-year-old Ray, who was then arrested and imprisoned for statutory rape. Una later tracks him down to make amends and make sense of her past. In a long and difficult confrontation, we find out more about their story and see how important second chances are—something that most people aren't given nowadays.
Blackbird (The Necessary Theater) opened in September at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in Makati City.
Si Janus Silang at
Si Janus Sílang at ang Labanáng Manananggal-Mambabarang (Tanghalang Ateneo) opened in September at Black Box Theater in Ateneo de Manila University.
This Aaron Posner play reminds us of the cost of blind faith and the sacrifices that go with reaching for your dreams. It follows the story of Asher Lev (played by Nelsito Gomez who admirably delivered the long monologues the script entailed), a young Hasidic Jew and artist whose strict sect believes art to be a waste of time. Aside from touching on the all-too-familiar story of a painter trying (but failing) to put aside his passion, My Name Is Asher Lev deals with how social norms and cultural barricades destroy harmony in a family.
My Name is Asher Lev (Twin Bill Theater) opened in February at The PARC Foundation in San Juan City.
Sci-fi thriller The Nether may be set in the distant future, but it draws haunting similarities to the world we live in. The story follows Detective Morris (played by Jenny Jamora) who exposes the deepest and darkest truth in The Hideaway, a Victorian-themed virtual realm where pedophiles live out their fantasies involving children. In real life, the United Nations Children's Fund reported in 2016 that the Philippines is "the number-one global source of child pornography." One of the major factors that
The Nether (Red Turnip Theater) opened in March at the Power Mac Center Spotlight Theater in Makati City.
What happens when people come together to overthrow tyranny? Newsies
Newsies (9 Works Theatrical) opened in July at the Globe Iconic Store in Bonifacio Global City.
Nyoy Volante surprised viewers with his on-point performance as Lola, a cabaret performer and drag queen who helps save the shoe company of Charlie Price (played Laurence Mossman) from bankruptcy by designing high-heeled boots for fellow drag queens. Intent on fitting in, she shows up at the factory in men's clothes as her old self Simon; but still, she is mocked and bullied by the foreman Don, unearthing negative memories of her dad disowning her when she started dressing in women's clothes. We could all use a flicker of hope from Lola, especially with the long-delayed passing of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. If you missed it in 2017, get your tickets now for the March 2018 re-run.
Kinky Boots (ATEG) opened in June at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in Makati City.
"If it's not right, you have to put it right," goes one of the songs in Matilda, The Musical. The play may be about bullying, particularly in a school setting; but from a bigger perspective, it's also about insurrection against tyranny. We see a bunch of five-year-olds stand up for each other and for what is right (literally, on the table) until they scare off the abusive school principal Miss Trunchbull. We could all use a bit (or a lot) of Matilda’s courage and understand that “nobody else is gonna put it right for me. Nobody but me is gonna change my story. Sometimes, you have to be a little bit naughty.”
Matilda (ATEG) opened in November at the Meralco Theater in Pasig City.
BONUS: 2017 also saw a handful of reruns and a couple of productions are still worth a mention.
Buwan at Baril
Buwan at Baril (Sugid Productions) opened in January at the Bantayog ng
When Caredivas premiered in the Philippine theater scene in 2011, it bagged several trophies so it doesn’t come as a surprise that it was restaged in 2012 and again this year. It's a funny musical about five overseas Filipino workers in Israel who try to make ends meet by working as caregivers in the morning and as drag queens at night. It sheds light on an unnecessarily familiar scene: A mother or a father goes abroad to earn more money, leaves behind a family living in poverty, tolerates abusive employers, risks deportation, and struggles against a haunting loneliness. Caredivas prompted laughter through witty
Caredivas (PETA) opened in February at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City.