Theaterbatoring UPPT's Fake

I wrote an article on UPPT's "Fake" a few weeks back:

I don't usually write "reviews" of productions that I've already written articles about, but what the hey!
Here are some

thoughts on fake
by walter ang
may 9, 2011

uppt's staging of "fake" is what audiences can describe as "theatrical" because of the different devices used: a few monologue moments, characters that the protagonists talk about (like la loba negra and datu kalantiaw) being acted out (even if they're not technically part of the scene), and flashbacks interspersed into present scenes.

Richard Cunanan as George in UPPT's "Fake."
and it is.  it's also intimate and evocative, given the small venue (teatro hermogenes ylagan), allowing for a textured show that includes playfulness with light: video designer winter david provides a few projections (brightly lit and visible) while lighting designer meliton roxas has pockets of gradients here and there.

playrwright floy quintos' dialogue is occasionally didactic (understandable given the amount of historical information that requires exposition) but his plotting keeps things moving and the ideas he presents are thought provoking.  the first act is a little trite for me, though an apt set up to a charming and thrilling second act.

i had never seen richard cunanan (george) perform so up-close before, and apparently, he has incredible reserves of mischief in his eyes, even when he is effectively portraying nuanced bewilderment, anguish and pain, which makes him fun and interesting to watch in small spaces.

george is a pilgrim in search of sister emily, a visionary, played by shamaine buencamino, who twists her torso to and fro and crumples her face in varying iterations to fill the character with complex emotions.
Shamaine Buencamino as Sister Emily.
scenes when these two are together are electric.  unfortunately, brian tibayan, who plays the main protagonist miguel (gerard pizarras alternates), and bojong fernandez, who plays lobo of the tasaday (jerald napoles alternates), were unable to deliver equal voltage and are completely swallowed by the two senior actors.

low talking volumes (which i didn't think  was possible given the small venue), confused acting and movement choices, and a general sense of tentativeness crippled their deliveries.

director tony mabesa's casting choices and under direction of the two is puzzling, especially since miguel is the counterpoint angst and cynicism of the entire piece and lobo is the poignant (exploited, most likely) former participant and eventual broken product of deception - important cornerstones, especially when the title of the play is "fake."

also, tibayan looks too young to be 42 years old, as his character announces in the first act.

in future stagings, it might be interesting to see:
1. a young actress portray sister emily, if only to add a counterpoint to miguel's own past as a young believer, to have hardened into a cynic and then to face another young person grapple with what is true and what is fake.
2. the same actor portray miguel and young miguel, if only to allow audiences a chance to see the actor show a range from innocent awe to bitter cynicism.
Alya Honasan as Concepcion Marco.
in the second act, joel lamangan portrays marco (leo rialp altermates) and alya honasan plays marco's wife concepcion (ces quesada alternates).

both imbue a crazed sensibility and a nervous vibe to their characters, with occasional loud flourishes that almost, but because of utter conviction, never becomes hammy, and thus, lodges their delivery (and launches the play) into the wonderful world of camp.

and it makes the show fun and funny to watch.  the campy feel creates an added a layer of slyness to the text, a "hey look, we believed in all of marco's lies and how hilariously ridiculous is that?" vibe.

time warp
while fictional, the play deals with real people, and therefore, the setting can only be logically (and limitedly) set in a finite span of possible calendar years-while marco and william henry scott (made into an amiable, reluctant debunker by paul holme) were both still alive (they never actually met in real life).
Joel Lamangan as Jose Marco.
the second act is pinned on flashback scenes when miguel is 17 years old and still in awe of marco before the truth about his lies are revealed.  the dramaturgical notes peg this around 1961.  so it is distracting to see production designer dante nico garcia dress the actor (mark herras look-a-like ross pesigan) playing young miguel with a look that is obviously from 2011.

we have the meticulously blowdried textured hair (where's the pomade and inches-high side cut? not yet quite the swinging sixties' long hippie hair, they're not in urban manila after all); the flat-front pants (weren't pleated pants in vogue back then?); the trendy, edgy looking mailman bag (in negros occidental in 1961?); and the hush puppies-looking shoes with marked stitching (perhaps shiny leather lace-ups or even tattered dingy sandals might have been more appropriate?).

the fashion faux pas aside, garcia dresses the home of marco beautifully: crafted wooden furniture, woven baskets and bric-a-brac spread about, piled on top of each other, like what you would imagine a provincial (fake) scholar's home to exactly look.

so what have we learned from this production? that perhaps, sometimes, you can take fashion out of its time period, but you can't take the time period out of fashion ... kekeke.

What do you think of this production? Share your comments.

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