It felt like magic. Electrifying, too, and ecstatic. That was the time it hit me- as I entered the Cinema One of SM Centerpoint wherein a full-packed audience of young students eagerly awaited the start of Philippine Stagers Foundation’s latest opus play- KATIPS (Ang Mga Bagong katipunero). It suddenly went into me, I mean, that kind of feeling. Maybe, it was already an extra-sensory-perception on my part or what you termed as ESP. I knew already I was going to watch a truly worthy and beautiful kind of a legitimate theater production.
I lingered to look first at the fabulous stage design at the very center front of the stage, rather than look around the noises and clamors I heard made by the students. The stage, it seemed was already inviting, tickling your artistic bones that I would soon see and hear, handsome performers and fascinating music. The stage, again, was just simple, though, but it revealed a deeper meaning- wherein old newspapers and front pages of it were made as wall designs with a cage/cell at the center- which truly implied a masking tape of lies during that era of a forgotten past in Philippine History. Kudos to Mr. Jeffrey Ambrosio, the Stage Designer who conceptualized and executed a masterpiece of art right there on stage.
Minutes later, I heard the music. The beat of an era. A tune so magnifying it at once brought me to a “not-so-forgotten-past” of my own life. It was the music, I knew, created and composed by Mr. Pipo Cifra- for this stage play. And yes, the play started right a time I really wanted it to be.
Ang Picket Sa Mendiola was the Intro Song of this play. The song was delivered in high notes by the Stagers as they all danced and sung it- in a very energetic execution of perfection and high vision. The choreography of this opening number, visualized by Mr. Gerald Magallanes (PSF’s choreographer) almost said it all and you were almost there. Like a magic wand, it turned you into a soul living in an era of the ’70’s or something. And even the young audience, as I looked around them, suddenly went into a “time travel”. They, yes… at once, knew. And now ready for something more.
I felt so happy again seeing the handsome faces and pretty looks of all the Stagers performing. They’re not half-hearted in what they’re doing on stage, but full-hearted and overjoyed in performing. The New Stagers easily mingled-in and coped-up, as the Old Stagers were still the most impressive performers of that night.
The first scenes of the play already highlighted the main conflict of that era they were presenting in an artistic medium. It became the “catalyst” of a revolt and an anger. Because those “people in power” at that time suddenly intervened at a peaceful rally and even ignored the presence of nuns and a priest. They held and shot a professor- which was Ka Manding (performed in a captivating manner by Jomar Tanada Bautista, with New Stager Alex Baylon alternating the role) – the rallysts’ leader, inspiration and idol.
Yes again, the death of Ka Manding became the catalyst and prime mover for the play to revolve. It soon gave birth to the other characters of the play, like the sympathetic character of a teenage boy named Art (awesomely portrayed by Johnrey Rivas) who’s an editorial staff of a campus newspaper, and of course, to a Balikbayan named Lara (so refreshingly portrayed by newcomer Maya Encila) who happened to be the very daughter of Ka Manding. This was already revealed seconds before Ka Manding died as he entrusted Lara to Greg (the play’s male lead actor and portrayed in a magnificent way by Kierwin Larena, with Kevin Posadas alternating) if ever he dies as the military people head-locked him and soon, he was shot and killed.
The play, all the more, continued on with mightier power, angst and tension. The music afterwards became transforming in many different emotions of love, flattery, subversiveness and revelations. I basically loved so much the song Bawal Kang Magsalita, not because of its unique music, but the message it implied. Panyong (the second male lead character of the play and portrayed with perfection and mastery by Vince Tanada) sang the song emotionally which only further made you feel how uncomfortable the life was during that era. Where people’s mouths were shut-up and taped. It was made clear the true message of the play.
Oh yes, the LIVE BAND. Whoa. It’s so good to the ears. I thought in a while, I was watching a rock classic- Jesus Christ Superstar ‘coz the feeling was exactly like that. Unique, surprising, trend-setting.
Thank you very much to Mr. Robert Encila and his band- because with the Stagers singing live in full force, the more they became impressive and the play exciting.
The costume design of Ms. Emy Tanada was colorful, passionate, authentic- and it provided more the feeling of ‘deja vu’ to whomever might want to have that kind of feeling while watching the play. The way the people dressed-up in the ’70’s could be perfectly be seen in this play.
The lighting of Art E. Gabrentina was Hollywood-ish in style in style and execution. It moved in varying colors degree of grandeur and “picture-like frames”, like, you are inside a photo studio of great, powerful lights.
The torture scenes of this play were the scenes I couldn’t bear. It was so heavy to look and watch at, but had to be presented that way because of its truthfulness. It had to be executed for the audience to know that it was really the way that those “people in power” at that time responded to rebellion. But they did it overboard. And Crimes Against Humanity didn’t set the records straight.
What made this play so impressive, really, to this blogger was the acting unison of all the Stagers. But they were able to do it because of great support from the major cast- most especially to Ms. Adelle Ibarrientos-Lim whose character in the play- as Alet– would further convince you of the treachery done to the little ones, the poor ones, the less-fortunate ones- as they were abused by the “people in power”.
Maya Encila as Lara was pretty convincing, too.
The supporting cast in persons of Glenn Magallanes, Rutchell Leonor, Vean Olmedo, Rospel Ann Gonzales, Johnrey Rivas, Hark Montillana, Jessica Evangelio, Oj Bacor, Marjorie Militar, Chin Ortega, De’Rotsen Etolle, Daniel Cruz, Chris Lim, JP Lopez, Art Andrade, Arian Golondrina, Levi Bracia and the rest of all of the Cast Ensemble, all did a terrific job. Even in small roles, they managed to steal “awes and wows”.
And lastly, no words could best describe the alluring direction of this play masterpiece. I bow my heads on you, Mr. Vince Tanada!
In the heart of one man, it was his task that only mattered. A task so dangerous and life-threatening. A task that could be called invisible to the naked eye, but gravitational in force and might.
Kierwin Larena as Greg delivered that. His character must live to serve as a “rainbow of hope amidst the changing tide”.
As Kierwin suddenly appeared anew in the ending scene of the play, and as the audience thought he had already died, the shrieks and shouts of the young students who watched became ear-defying to the blogger who was among them.
Not just because they saw hope, but also, because of the fact that the character became so much handsomer with his shorter hair cut, minus the groovy-shady looks, too. The actor came back and the promise fulfilled.
Together with the other actors of the play, a character only becomes alive if the actor gave his SOUL.
And Mr. Kierwin Larena surely delivered that.
(as the words were written by robert manuguid silverio)
EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS BY MR. VINO ORIARTE BELOW, TAKEN DURING THE SECOND DAY OF PERFORMANCE OF “KATIPS”: