Home Top News Confounding family dynamics: VLF’s most cohesive set yet

Confounding family dynamics: VLF’s most cohesive set yet

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THE VIRGIN LAB FEST (VLF) returns each year to showcase untried and untested one-act plays onstage. Now on its 19th year, the festival takes on narratives that deal with the complex layers of human experience.

This year’s theme is “Pintog,” meaning burst, signifying how VLF can now reap the bursting fruits of their labor. At the Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez (the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Blackbox Theater), avid festivalgoers pile in, looking forward to the new offerings this year.

“We want to thank you all for visiting this theater as always, to check out the boundless talent that VLF has to offer,” said co-festival director Marco Viaña at the technical dress rehearsals on June 9.

“Higit sa lahat, sana magiliw ang panonood niyo (Most of all, we hope you enjoy the show),” he said.

The curtain opened that night on the complex, family-centered Set B (the plays are grouped into five different sets). Titled Bingit, a word that translates to the brink, audiences were noticeably at the edge of their seats from tension and anticipation.

Sentenaryo by playwright Herlyn Alegre and director Ian Segarra sets the tone perfectly, following a family that fights over the centenarian birthday money of their dying patriarch.

Its strength is the comical take on what would happen were the old man to die before they receive the money. The shenanigans that ensue as the family pretend that he is still alive are an interesting “representation of the current milieu” that mistreats its senior citizens, according to Ms. Alegre.

Director Mr. Segarra said at the rehearsals that it is a physical comedy. “We were able to play with how the actors’ bodies interact with each other in the space of the house,” he explained.

Following the raucous laughter from the first play was the tension of Divine Family by playwright Dip Mariposque and director Roobak Valle. This one is set in a house where estranged family members must live under one roof during the pandemic.

Each of the sibling characters in the play gradually reveal their secrets, some humorous and some scandalous, truly bringing viewers to loud reactions as the family is forced to confront their realities.

“As a regular patron of VLF, I usually have a strong critical eye, but I had to give that up and simply enjoy writing this play,” Mr. Mariposque told BusinessWorld after the rehearsals. “It’s a relief to let the material breathe and be interpreted by the director, and now the audience.”

Personal relationships, dysfunctional dynamics, and siblings on the edge of their sanity made the play a toxic highlight of the set. Its theme, generational trauma, rang true and disturbed audiences well into the intermission.

Finally, Identité by playwright Jhudiel Clare Sosa and director Me-Ann Espinosa served as a powerful finish for the set. It centers on a traditional Filipino mother and her young, headstrong daughter learning to discover herself through her sexuality.

Like the other two, it generated a great number of laughs but delivered equally hard emotional punches. It’s a story of “women empowerment” and how simply having a choice can make or break a woman, according to Ms. Sosa.

“It’s a play that opens an important conversation,” she said at rehearsals.

Surely relatable for daughters who have complex relationships with their mothers, its strength lies in the extreme push-and-pull between the two leads regarding identity and perception — the comic twist best left unspoiled.

VLF 19’s Set B, “Bingit,” is perhaps the most cohesive set brought to VLF’s stage in its recent years. The energy sustained from one play to the next, each full of heart whether they tackle the treatment of senior citizens, the realities of generational trauma, or tough discussions around female empowerment.

Aside from this set of revisited plays seen by BusinessWorld, 12 other new one-act plays from both veteran and upcoming playwrights are being staged until June 30 at the CCP Blackbox Theater. Shows are at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The other four sets are: Dilema (Set A), Pu-Tim (Set C), Di-Tiyak (Set D), and Sagad (Set E) — plus two sets of staged readings.

For more information, contact the CCP Box Office or visit the social media accounts of the CCP, Tanghalang Pilipino, The Writers’ Bloc, and Virgin Labfest. — Brontë H. Lacsamana

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