Theaterbatoring DL's May Pakpak ang Oras

thoughts on dulaang laksambayanan's "may pakpak ang oras at iba pang dula ni david ives"
by walter ang
march 28, 2011

Cast of "May Pakpak ang Oras at iba pang
mga dula ni David Ives." Image from the 
DL Facebook account
in american slang, the word “word” can mean “yes”—a general utterance of agreement.  dulaang laksambayanan’s charming staging of “may pakpak ang oras at iba pang dula ni david ives” shows the disagreements that also come with or as the result of (spoken) words.

the group has thoughtfully curated four of american playwright david ives’ one-act plays into a single show.  the title of the first play quickly establishes the wordplay that cuts across all four, a story of two mayflies who realize they only have one day to live: “time flies” (translated to “may pakpak ang oras”).

ives sure is smitten by words.  in fact, his other plays (not included in this show) have titles like “words, words, words” and “the universal language.”

in “may pakpak,” the two mayflies exclaim terms like “carpe diem” and talk about going to “paris,” only to immediately ask each other what those words mean (since they’ve only been alive for less than a day).

words are further deliberated in the second play, “babel, babel… pa’no ka ginawa?” (“babel’s in arms”), with ives’ take on two workers at the construction site of the tower of babel.  as characters break into gibberish without warning nor explanation, confusion and hilarity ensues.

words get their spectacle showcase in the third installment “sure thing,” as a man and woman try to get to know each other as they repeat and revise their lines ad infinitum.

the piece is fun to watch and impressive to see unfold as the two actors go over lines when signaled by a bell that rings faster and faster until it’s a frenzied blast.  one can only imagine the concentration needed by the actors to remember which repetition they’re already at.

it’s a great counterpoint to the first play which deals with a singular chance at love bound by time; this one ponders the possibility of infinite chances to grab love.

while “may pakpak” opens the show with a message of hope, the show ends with “abangan ang susunod na kabanta” (“captive audience”), a trippy cautionary tale of how words (via mass media— in this case, represented by a tv set) can be a dangerous brainwashing weapon.

this one mirrors the second play, highlighting the use of words as weapons of domination and obfuscation.

ives is heavy on repetitive dialogue, something that’s ripe for annoying audiences, but the directors (each play has a different director) pace the show well, adeptly timing the multiple loops for emphasis, for lulls, for set-ups to punchlines, etc.

through collaborative translation, the group allows tagalog and taglish to carry the stories.  the translation presents conversational, colloquial tagalong that fits ives’ quirky humor, though sometimes, the retention of some american cultural markers (for example, mention of three ivy league universities instead of their local counterparts; or the whole bit on walnuts for the last play) sounds/feels slightly jarring.

across these seemingly harmless and funny skits are underlying launchpads of discussion on sexual relations, the finiteness of life, capitalism, exploitation and mass media hegemony. (and of course, academics will invariably analyze the semantics and semiotics that the texts present.)

lead by artistic director joshua so and executive director terrie martinez, all the current members of the group are new (though dl has been in existence intermittently).  this is perhaps why the ensemble gives somewhat unequal levels of performances, but definitely all with conviction, sincerity and the indelible feeling that they’re having fun (which rubs off on the audience).

mark anthony dacena’s original music is fresh and appropriate.  it not so much scores the text as it intertwines with it, highlighting and driving the action forward.

the group wraps up the show with a devised sound-and-movement piece where the entire cast descends on to the stage and repeats key phrases from their respective plays, showing the audience the complex crazy world that we create with and deal in words.  word.

dulaang laksambayanan’s next production is “a season of ten thousand noses”based on the short story by charlson ong, scheduled for april 2011.  contact 0916-4123137 or

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