Monday, March 31, 2008

Slipped Disc @ Goethe-Institut Manila

In times where you can be downsized faster than you can photocopy, the spine quickly becomes a very expendable part of the body

Ingrid Lausund's Slipped Disc: A Study of the Upright Walk, staged by Dramatis Personae for the Goethe-Institut Manila, is a look at life in the corporate jungle that is at times funny, serious and absurd. "Hopefully it will de-stress you and de-toxify you and make you walk more upright tonight," said director Lito Casaje. Often, the humor comes from the familiarity of the situations in the play. The play is self-aware; the characters often break the fourth wall. This is theater not as an escape, but rather as a vehicle forcing you to face your own demons in an intimate setting.

Casaje assembled an impressive cast of respected actors: Richard Cunanan (Hufschmidt), Mailes Kanapi (Schmitt), Jake Macapagal (Kretzky), Jeffrey Quizon (Kruse), and Lynn Sherman (Kristensen). The characters initially come off as stereotypes which are gradually fleshed out in 3D and could be real Makati office people. Fitting, then, that they chose to perform the show in the CBD. It's like holding up a mirror to the workers in the opposite building in their least guarded moments.

It is impossible not to feel sympathy for Quizon's Kruse, who is subjected to Schmitt's undeserved assault, but he could pick up his pace in his monologues. In his dialogue with Macapagal, they are intense and high in energy but sadly not in clarity.

Although the first act had a fair share of comic brilliance, the play lost steam in the second act. Without the support of the ensemble, the series of monologues sounded as if the actors were re-writing the monologues on the spot. An exception was Cunanan, who was engaging in his reverie with musical tea leaves. Could it be that the tentative-ness was intentional, as Lausand hinted in the final scene where the lines sounded as if she was talking to herself? I don't think I'll ever find out.

The play ends on a high note, a lovely (if warm and fuzzy) finish that picks everyone and everything up with its hopeful message unusually devoid of sarcasm. Top dog or underdog, we are still human after all.

The experimental style of the play makes a commercial run risky, which is why it is such a treat that admission is free. I hope this support for the arts will continue, especially for material not often produced locally.

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