The comedy with which death is dealt in two plays at the Virgin Labfest 7, presented at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, was in no way extraordinary. After all, we’re in a country where laughter in the face of difficulty is cliché.
Yet what might be extraordinary in both The Valley Mission Care written by Russell Legaspi and directed by Missy Maramara, and Bawal Tumawid Nakamamatay written and directed by Joey Paras, is precisely its reconfiguration of these clichés into notions of letting go and letting things be. The two plays are given contexts that are particularly of the current times, anywhere that there’s a friendly smiling Filipino.
on Bawal Tumawid Nakamamatay:
Which isn’t to say that Bawal Tumawid Nakamamatay wasn’t funny; it was funny in the way slapstick and loudness, as well as characters – and actors! – with perfect timing necessarily are. Gimay Galvan as the coffee shop barista going through her own love crisis on Valentine’s Day was perfectly consistent as the angry lesbian, as was Rodel Bar Sumooc as the cigarette vendor who would pass through and give his unsolicited two cents’ worth to the conversation. Baento is perfectly fag hag working class, the comedy emanating from her self-assured performance, weight, flashy dress and all. Rialp, given the limits of Mang Caloy’s character, surprisingly blazes into anger and regret and sadness at the point when his story unravels, glaring at the distance even when he is reminiscing. It’s the one moment when Mang Caloy’s character makes sense, and Rialp must take the credit for acting that was luminescent.
on The Valley Mission Care:
This mission was also about freedom from The Valley, a prison of sorts for the spritely old man. Ashlyn was heaven sent for Lolo Cisco, and he lost no time in appealing to her inner-romantic, if not her hidden-Pinoy: do this for me hija, do this for yourself. Ashlyn struggles between her job and her guilt and ends up helping Lolo Cisco anyway. Here, Ashlyn’s struggle is stretched out a wee bit, with no real sense of what’s going through her head, how she reconciles it within herself.
And it’s here that Estañero shines. In the end, her connection with Lolo Cisco, while not made logical by the narrative, is revealed by Estañero to be about a sincere honest compassion. When in the end she tears up, it’s difficult not to be carried away, sunrise and all. Sepulveda meanwhile plays Lolo Cisco with a perfect balance of fieriness and weakness, with excitement and weariness in his eyes.