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PLAY REVIEW: “Maladies of the Soul: Adaptation as site of violence and forgotten narratives”

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3RIP”tick” – UP Dulaang Laboratoryo

“Mal”

From Trojan Women of Euripedes
Adaptation by Vladimeir Gonzales
Directed by Mara Paulina Marasigan
May 17 – 18, 2014, 3pm and 7pm

UP Dulaang Laboratoryo
Teatro Hermogenes Ylagan

 

“Konting kembot na lang anak,” a mother’s warm text message. The mother, an avatar, was waiting for her daughter to come home from an immersion in the countryside. Later on, she would lament over her daughter’s abduction by the military.

In another side of the stage, a farmer’s son experiences torture from the military and an ex-beauty queen discovers the corruption of her husband. Meanwhile, the gods Diyos ng Mayroon and Diyos ng Wala would run back and forth to each avatars contemplating over the narratives of violence. In purgatory, four women, Ina, Kabiyak, Mutya, and Buwang, wails and laments over these tortures and despair.

Amid such chaos, three worlds unite: the world of the living, the world of purgatory, and the world of the gods. Themes of the tragedy come in threes: Kaos, Kosmos, and Thanatos; Remembering (Pag-aalala), Jealousy (Paninibugho), and Acceptance (Pagtanggap). All recur in memory as the tragedy becomes space for unfolding protest to the experience of abuse and violence.

 

This is not your usual thesis production. Vladimeir Gonzales’ adaptation on Euripedes’ Trojan Women delved into the representations of human rights violations especially in the countryside and mirrored the widespread malaise of forgetting in the age of Internet like the actions of erasing by the malware virus, Trojan Horse.

 

The attempt to innovate and utilize the graduating theatre student’s strength has given avenues for Director Mara Paulina Marasigan to innovate with the dialectical metaphor of memory through her character’s spontaneous movements and powerful choreography. Violence is inscribed in the space where everything is broken and as the space becomes rebuilt again, the cycle of accepting violence begins again. “The eight graduating students have gone through 2 months of tedious workshops and rehearsals to be able to portray 3-dimensional characters some of which are not human,” notes Marasigan in the program.

 

The play, casted with eight stellar actors from the Certificate in Theatre Arts group, gave justice tothe pursuit and yearning of a reason to understand widespread violence in its different forms today.The actors ran back and forth in frenzy. As if in a trance, they dance along the sounds of heavy footsteps. Contemporary dance served as transitions to depict the body as an unending display of cycle in a space where everything’s a mess.

 

The four people in the world of the living stood on four corners narrating the final moments before their disappearance while being observed by the Diyos ng Wala and Diyos ng Mayroon. Meanwhile, from above, observing on a pedestal surrounded by rubble and dust, the Tagapagtawid and the women in purgatory lament and question their identities.

 

As in the original Greek tragedy after the fall of Troy, the four Trojan widows’ search for freedom pushes them to question their fatebefore they are taken away as slaves to different kings. The war, aside from the psychological damage, has left them with dead husbands and sons condemned to death or sacrificed to a god.

 

In Mal, the suggestion of violence becomes more vivid as the narratives of the four people in the world of the living (Estudyante, Magsasaka, Nanay, and Asawa) unfold to their untimely breakdown. Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan’s abduction by the military is echoed in the Estudyante’s anecdotes of her abduction in an immersion trip at Bulacan. Meanwhile, the Magsasaka, was mistaken as member of the New People’s Army and was forced by the military to lie under the conditions of torture. Nanay waits for her daughter who connects with her only through SMS where she anecdotes domestic aspirations of a simple life without poverty. The Asawa is an ex-beauty queen who instantly goes up the social ladder by constantly practicing good English. Her subsequent fall arrives as she discovers her lover’s crime. Her experiences in the showbiz and pageant industry provides comic aside to the heaviness of the tragedy.

 

The experience of violence further questioned the violence to the self. Gonzales attack on the play was more of a commentary to the current practice of remembering. In the age of Facebook, Twitter, and selfie, people create gods out of their Self. Along with the fast-paced innovations in technology, certain alternative histories blur social realities and collective Filipino memory that heighten societal consciousness.

 

Purgatory becomes a metaphor of this current trend of forgetting. There the Tagapagtawid burdens each soul with unresolved questions of identity and a snippet into the state of women in different visions of becoming lost or forgotten. Ina, who is in tatters and whitening hair, epitomizes an old war where her husband diedthat has been forgotten today. Kabiyak recurs to her past self as a beauty queen in the world of the living ending tragically under battered conditions. Mutya, the uptight and proud upholder of beauty,harkens back to her old self as the Diyos ng Mayroon. Being a mother who becomes lost to her wits, the Buwang echoes a Sisa in Rizal and the Nanay of a desaparecido.

 

Dialogues between the Diyos ng Mayroon and Diyos ng Wala sifted through the issues of memory and understanding what should be remembered in the age of a fast-paced society driven by heavy consumption of the self. They also act as mediators and chorus, echoing verses spoken in conversation, a break away from the tradition.

 

“Magandang pag-isipan kako na sa panahon na dapat ay maraming espasyo sa pag-aalala at pagtatawid ng alaala, bakit andami-daming panitikan at kasaysayang nalilimot, bakit napakaraming mga kwento ng mga digmaan at ng mga biktima ang parang naglaho na lang. Saan napupunta ang mga pinaglalahong tao at pinaglalahong mga salaysay?” Gonzales notes in the program.

 

The search for history and for lost people concludes with an act of sacrifice. The Estudyante, a desaparecido, was sacrificed by the Tagapagtawid to the void. In the end, the four women embark on entering the Dagat ng Kawalan, a similar recalling of the Trojan women embarking in their own voyages out of Troy. The closing returns to the beginning of everything, telling the audience that everything is a cycle of violence, where the everyday is a constant act of forgetting.

Reference:

Program notes. Mal halaw sa Trojan Women ni Euripedes. UP Dulaang Laboratoryo. UP Diliman, Quezon City. 17-18 May 2014. Print.

 

– John Toledo

About KALasag (Opisyal na Papel Pampahayag ng Kolehiyo ng Arte at Literatura, Unibersidad ng Pilipinas)

KALasag, ang Opisyal na Papel Pampahayagan ng Kolehiyo ng Arte at Literatura, Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. Ito ang magsisilbing pahayagan ng mga pananaw, usapin at paninindigan ng mga estudyante hinggil sa mga mahahalagang isyu. Ito rin ay magiging daan tungo sa pagbuo ng identidad ng kolehiyo at paghahanap ng lugar nito sa pamantasan at lipunan.

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