Theater luminaries bring back the glory of the "noble andever loyal city" through the staging of Nick Joaquin's Portrait of an Artistas Filipino.
Repertory Philippines is staging this period play with Jose Mari Avellana atthe helm. In his director's notes, the son of National Artist for Film LambertoAvellana and National Artist for Theater Daisy Avellana considered himself tooclose to the material. However, this in-depth knowledge of Portrait workedwell for the director (and the audience) since they were able to recreate themood of Filipinos two months before the outbreak of World War II.
SYNOPSIS. Standing among ruins of Old Manila (Intramuros) is a young manwho reminisces about an era gone by. Bitoy Camacho (Joel Trinidad) shifts backand forth from the past to the present as he recalls the precious moments thattook place in the house of Don Lorenzo el Magnifico.
The audience is given a portrait of the Marasigan family living in Old Manilain October 1941.
The story revolves around two of Don Lorenzo's daughters, Candida (playedalternately by Ana Abad Santos and Irma Adlawan-Marasigan) and Paula (LieslBatucan). They are both unmarried in their advanced age.
Candida and Paula are dependent on their married brother Manolo (JeremyDomingo) and their married sister Pepang (Jay Glorioso). After leaving theirancestral home, the two have become obsessed with material things, promptingthem to take an interest in their father's self-portrait, which could fetch asmall fortune when sold.
However, Candida and Paula resist the temptation to sell their father'smasterpiece. Not even their charming boarder Tony Javier (Randy Villarama)could coax them to change their minds.
Though smart and of good breeding, Candida and Paula find themselves now bereftof money and resources. They are forced to leave utility bills unpaid, grovelfor work, and become the laughing stock and talk of the town. In spite of allthese, however, both Paula and Candida carry within them the glory of daysgone, the glory that allowed them to pursue a life filled with poetry, music,conversation, and great art. The glory that is Filipino.
Imminent war, practice-blackouts, and sleazy figures from Manila's nightlifemake a wonderful context for Portrait of an Artist as Filipino.
THE VERDICT. Repertory Philippines is able to evoke nostalgia even among viewers who have no direct memory of pre-war Manila.
Viewers will be delighted by the magnificent Marasigan home decorated with anornate chandelier, a baby piano on one side, and two large capiz windows.
The excellent lighting design gives the impression of passing time and thewindows maximize the effect. As the day ends, lights cast an orange glow on thesurroundings, mimicking the setting sun.
Even though the story mainly revolves around Candida and Paula, Portraithas an ensemble cast that provides memorable moments all throughout thetwo-and-half-hour play.
In the last portion of the period play, friends of Don Lorenzo stream in one byone to celebrate the Feast of La Naval. Listing them is aWho's Who of Philippine theater: Baby Barredo, Chinggoy Alonso, ErnieZarate, among others. Memory lapses aside, they provide jollyrepartee that imparts their fondness for the good ol' days.
The two stars of the show, portrayed by Ana Abad Santos and LieslBatucan on preview night last January 15, were both impressive as "useless oldmaids" trying to hold on to their pride and dignity.
As Candida, Ana could bring out chuckles when she deftly avoided being seen bythe neighbors during the blackout scene but in the next moment, she evokedsympathy from the audience when she nearly broke down in humiliation.
"Poetry cannot save you from the bombs," admonishes their Ninong Don Perico(Dido de la Paz), who has given up poetry for comfort andriches. Both Candida and Paula remain strong in the midst of familial pressure,but they have yet to withstand a much greater foe: the division of theMarasigan family.
With reports from Shelley Jo Saracin
Performances of Portrait of an Artist as Filipino are scheduled until February8, 2009 at Onstage Greenbelt 1 Theatre, Ayala Malls Makati. Catch NickJoaquin's A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino every Friday andSaturday at 8 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:30 pm.
For ticket inquiries, call the Rep office at 887-0710 or Ticketworld at891-9999.