Selling games: Dulaang UP's 'Collection'
MANILA, Philippines - We are truly cursed to live in interesting times, when the most frightening dystopian fiction is nothing more than our current reality in hyperbole:
National patrimony for sale to the highest bidder. The sacred and historical prostituted and corrupted. Measly dole outs masquerading as philanthropy. The whole tragedy unfolding before unthinking masses as entertainment.
What has just been described is not just the absurdity of present day Philippines; it is also the world of Floy Quintos's latest play, “Collection.”
With the popularity of “The Hunger Games” franchise movies and novels, today's youth are familiar with the television game show as a metaphor for commodification. “Collection” opens with such a scene, with a televised government-sanctioned auction of the ancient Banaue Rice Terraces, the proceeds of which are raffled to the poor.
Koreans threaten to buy the terraces until Filipino developer Manolo Estacio outbids them, only to have them transplanted to his theme park. But with the rediscovery of a 16th century ivory statue of the Virgin of Lost Souls, all bets are off as to who will outbid, outplay, and outlast to win the ultimate prize.
Directed by Dexter Santos, "Collection" features set design and technical direction by Ohm David, lighting by John Batalla, music by Janine Santos and William Manzano, and costumes by Raven Ong. Onstage are consummate thespians Jeremy Domingo, Roeder Camanag, Judith Javier, Leo Rialp, Alya Honasan, Alexander Cortez, Stela Canete, Teetin Villanueva, and Red Concepcion to name a few.
It is expertly lit; the stage lights up exactly like a disco when people dance. It is well choreographed; characters move like clockwork. It is gorgeously backdropped; the rich, highly evocative set design gives actors something to work with without impeding their movement.
“Collection” is also — most crucially — thoughtfully and vigorously portrayed and directed.
Each fictional character is patterned after a composite of several real life personalities:
- Javier, essaying the role of Helena de Zialcita, head of the National Commission on the Disposal of Philippine Patrimony, seems to channel the irrepressible Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and the infamous former first lady Imelda Marcos
- Domingo, as auctioneer extraordinaire Carlo Vibal, is reminiscent of American Idol's Ryan Seacrest
- Cortez, as the flamboyant fashion designer and filmmaker Alphonse, prances with as much flair as the famed Inno Sotto
- Rialp, as the real estate magnate Manolo Estacio, sports a platinum pompadour worthy of Donald Trump
- Camanag, as the Shanghai cosmetic surgeon Stephen Yan, reminds audiences of Joel Mendez and Vicky Belo
- Honasan, as jeweler Tatiana, seems to distill a dozen ridiculously religious socialites
- Villanueva, as the Hermana, the mystical protector of the Virgin, channels no less than Elsa, Nora Aunor's character in the cinematic classic “Himala”
“Collection” is a production that seems to good, too grand for such an intimate college theater venue as University of the Philippines' Wilfredo Maria Guerrero Theater, where it runs until until the 3rd of March. And, yes, even this staging, like all good things, seems to end too soon.
Poignant, “Collection” is postmodern to the end. A show within a show; its real life theater audiences are as much mesmerized by the tragic spectacle unfolding before them as the fictional audiences of the fictional television show. - Rappler.com
(Rome Jorge is the editor in chief of Asian Traveler magazine.)
(Catch 'Collection' on February 27 to March 1 at 7pm; March 2 at 10am and 3pm; and March 3 at 3pm. Contact Camille Guevara for tickets at 0917-8239531.)