Ang Wakas ng 'Sa Wakas': The Pinoy rock musical kicks off its final run
Sa Wakas touts impressive accolades, enjoys acclaim across the board, and is set to the music of one of the definitive albums of Pinoy rock institution Sugarfree—3 factors that led to me (along with the rest of a sold-out crowd) walking into the Power Mac Spotlight Theatre of Circuit Makati on the debut weekend of its final run with my expectations high (and a pack of tissues in hand).
There’s a certain magic in numbers, something serendipitous, if you will, so I found it quite fitting that I was finally getting to watch what has been hailed by everyone and their mothers as the must-watch musical for catching all of the feels on its final run, a fitting 15 years after the Sugarfree album it was named after was released.
It has been 7 years since Sugarfree disbanded and called it quits in 2011, causing collective heartbreak in the generation that loved, lived, and grew up to their music.
It’s a heartbreak that gave birth to the musical in the first place, by two millennials with the desire to tell the kind of story that had yet to be explored on the Philippine stage.
A tale we all know
Sa Wakas is set in contemporary Metro Manila, telling a tale we all know and hold close to our hearts because we’ve lived it at one point or another. It grapples with concerns like following passions versus fulfilling responsibilities, the age-old dilemma of desire versus duty, along with a heavy dose of not knowing how to deal but forging forward anyway. There are bridges burned and decisions that can’t quite be taken back with 3 people standing in the wake of them, doing their best to hold themselves intact.
There’s nothing political or ground-breaking about it; you won’t walk away with a triggered existential or quarter-life crisis, or with your worldview challenged or shifted dramatically. But while the premise may seem simple, perhaps even trite, these are our tragedies as Manila-dwelling millennials depicted on stage, and the play succeeds in presenting them in a way that doesn’t seem self-indulgent or shallow.
It helps that the storyline is interspersed with situations that are relatable, at least to the middle-to-upper-class. From clocking in overtime, curling up to some John Lloyd and Bea Alonzo on our TV screens, awkward interactions with strangers all buoyed along by dynamic dialogue — these are scenes that you yourself have lived perhaps even just hours before the show. For lack of a better way to put it, the play is hugot at its finest; you could literally (pun intended) pick a scene at random and find an appropriate quote to caption your Instagram post with.
The play is told in reverse chronological order, kicking off with the dissolution of Topper and Lexi’s relationship by the introduction of a third party named Gabbie.
Topper is an up-and-coming photographer who has no idea what he really wants, Lexi is an adorably neurotic doctor with a grating and slightly twisted brand of gallows humor, and Gabbie is a quirky, clumsy, yet enigmatic magazine writer who’s valiantly trying to protect the heart she wears on her sleeve.
I’m not going to lie—coming into the show I was fully prepared for my heart to go out to Gabbi, being of the art-hound, hopeless romantic variety myself.
But what I wasn’t prepared for was to Feel Things™ for Lexi and Topper, to relive my own heartaches through theirs. That, I believe, is where the play succeeds: in telling a story that isn’t so much about how 3 lives intertwine but about how each of them as individuals weather through the consequences of their actions — no one specifically at fault but rather all 3 of them sharing the blame equally in the wake of their decisions.
The whole story resides in a gray area — that delicious in-between of being in love and breaking apart at the same time. Can you forgive the man you almost married and shared 10 years with for cheating on you? Can you continue to love someone who, when faced with two options, couldn’t choose you? Can you forgive yourself for wanting everything? Can you move forward and love yourself, still, despite all of your mistakes?
Sa Wakas doesn’t have any of the answers, but what it lacks in proper catharsis it makes up for in an unravelling that holds you captive, tracing a story from its bittersweet end to its quixotic beginnings.
Technically, the show is a marvel.
From making use of every inch of its innovative stage to the nuances in its musical arrangement, it is not so much a story set to Sugarfree’s songs but one that is built on them, delving into renditions that catch you off guard with how they’re seamlessly woven into its telling, whether in whole or in reprise.
The cast deserves all the praise for whatever depth you can find within its characters, for fleshing them out to be fully human instead of a flawed protagonist, an unwilling victim, and a culpable other woman.
Three is a magic number, and the show doesn’t need much else but these characters to keep it aloft (although the 4-person chorus does manage to steal the show at certain points). There’s also the fact that the music is performed live, which always lends a certain thrill towards the unexpected, and gives the show that extra push towards the sentimentality that it aims for.
A simple story
But beyond the stellar cast and inventive crafting, Sa Wakas remains at its core a simple story.
While it has my respect for refraining from making grand statements about life and love, instead focusing on the truth that there’s no such thing as closure and no true end to the Sisyphean task of figuring things out, I felt that certain aspects of it barely scratched the surface.
For a story that builds itself on an abstract in-between, I feel that it falls short of making any sort of statement for the audience to walk away with.
With no one to assign blame on and no happy ending in sight, it fails to point the finger towards the audience members themselves and turn them introspective for their own benefit.
There is no catharsis to be had, and as such that collectively held breath is only let out in tiny sighs and exasperated laughter during scenes like the ones that held Burnout, Tulog Na, and Ang Pinakamagaling na Tao sa Balat ng Lupa.
It leaves one with a static feeling that is not so much heart-aching as it is frustrating, mostly because the characters end up more or less where they started. It’s open-ended, which is acceptable, but there’s also a lack of character growth, which is not.
Even a stand as innocuous and ambivalent as “it’s going to be okay” would have helped with that itch, even if it’s a statement that doesn’t hold true. Not everything comes with a happy ending, or an ending at all, nor does it have to, but for a play that tells the story of bad decisions, it fails to make one, and I feel that this is its biggest flaw.
Now, that isn’t to say that it isn’t worth watching. With a cast that oozes charisma and successfully elicits empathy, beautiful music that throws you back to yesteryear and triggers a specific kind of melancholia, Sa Wakas is a solid production that’s well worth the time and money you invest in it. It’s a fun time to be had (maybe with friends instead of with a current significant other, because awkward), with so much hugot thrown left and right that you won’t be able to avoid catching at least some of those feels.
The cast and crew themselves admit that the show has a surprisingly young fanbase, one that probably wasn’t even old enough to appreciate the sentiments behind Sugarfree’s debut album when it first came out, which to me makes sense.
Anyone out for an evening of great entertainment and a heavy dose of Feeling Things™ is sure to find it, but those who like their theatre with a little more depth and acuity might find it falling just short. Then again, Sa Wakas is a self-proclaimed Pinoy Rock Musical—and doesn’t watching a musical, of all things, mean that we’re out to have a good time?
Sa Wakas runs until May 27, 2018. Catch the feels and get your tickets here. – Rappler.com
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