Sunday, March 2, 2008

Attack of the triple threats

I was supposed to watch Dulaang UP's Orosman at Zafira with Mari two weeks ago, but she got a last-minute raket and we didn't go. When Gibbs Cadiz pronounced O&Z "the first great production of the year", I just had to see it. I went to Palma Hall and saw the "SOLD OUT" sign on the ticket table. The show was booked for high school students--three tourist busloads of them. I told the ticket sellers I was willing to go SRO, so they told me to wait for a while. A couple of minutes later, a teacher returned one ticket. I got a front row seat.

It seems to me that the title of the show is misleading. Why is it called Orosman at Zafira when it does not revolve around their story? Maybe it is not to be expected of a komedya, but character development is not the best point of the play. (But who am I to okray Balagtas?)

Other than the scheming Boulasem (Roeder CamaƱag), there seems to be no real villain. Not Mahamud (William Manzano), not Abdalap (Lex Marcos). I wondered if Abdalap's love for Zafira was true and sympathized with him until he slew his father. He just wasn't the archetypal bad guy. The first time Orosman (Felix Rivera) and Zafira (Cris Villonco) meet, I had the feeling that lines were just coming out of their mouths and then *bam!* they were in love. Rivera and Villonco can certainly act and sing, but I found the match problematic. The real stars of the show were Jean Judith Javier as Gulnara and Hazel Maranan as Zelima, who were consistent in terms of movement, acting and singing--real triple threats who poured out everything they had in each of their scenes.

Movement is the lifeblood of this show. The introduction to the three kingdoms and the three battle sequences were visually stunning and not repetitive. The ensemble filled every inch of the stage with their energy, which they sustained throughout the performance. There was never a lull moment, which is why sometimes it felt that things were happening hurriedly. The pace and flow are smooth--this is not a show where characters stop to think.

Tuxqs Rutaquio's production design was effective. The symbolisms--the moon, the dripping water and the leaves--were beautiful ways of closing the show. The upturned walis tingting set pieces initially reminded me of the grasslands in the Lion King, but were put to good use here. The costumes of each faction and their accessories were aesthetically pleasing without getting in the way of movement, for the most part. I enjoyed Carol Bello's original score, but was glad not to sit too close to the musicians because the instruments can be very loud. The septet song was a nice touch and the students were still humming the finale as they stepped out of the theater.

Everyone involved in this production has good reason to be proud of their work. Director and choreographer Dexter Santos must be thrilled to be living his dream. I've never been choreographed by him, but I have worked in a production where he was the choreographer and I am happy for him. He really is one to watch out for.

With Bodgie Pascua and Nic Manahan in the audience, it felt like a Hamlet cast reunion with Villonco, Rivera and Red Concepcion (Aldervesin) onstage. It was also nice to see some familiar faces in the cast. In case they get to read this...C., you look great; N., you're as sexy as ever; L., you haven't aged in the last five years.

The run has been extended, with three additional shows on the 6th to the 8th of March, 7pm. For P250, you'll get first-rate quality for two and a half hours--a great deal in my book. I wish I could also see what alternates Arnold Reyes (Orosman), Maita Ponce (Zafira), Tao Aves/Natasha Cabrera (Zelima) and Ricky Ibe (Boulasem) bring to their roles. I'd like to see it again if someone would only treat me. :D

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