Philippine Stagers Foundation (PSF) to most people especially to the ones who have been following their stage presentations, the group is popularly known for its musicales and in fact, earned recognitions for ‘Ako si Ninoy’, ‘Enzo… Santo’ and ‘Cory ng EDSA: A Filipino Musicale’. Only a handful may have known the theater company and is indeed capable of staging a more serious play, which I happened to witness twice, first in 2010 and just recently this year. I am fortunate to watch the straight, a more serious play, a heavy drama titled ‘Bangkay sa Corinto’ written and directed by Aliw awardee Atty. Vince Tañada and starred by PSF’s homegrown talents: Glory Ann Nacional, Patrick Libao, Cindy Liper and Cherry Bagtas.
The play was first staged at the University of the Philippines’ Aldaba Hall seven years ago. Perhaps, this dark and tragic presentation, which is a far cry from the rest of the feel-good-and-inspiring-kind-of-theatrical-plays the group has been known for—‘Bangkay’ is one outstanding piece. It gathers the finest, the boldest performances of the five main characters involved—Tañada as Señor Segismundo, the evil and pervert old-man embalmer of Funeraria Corinto; Nacional as Aling Meding, the obsessed old-maid who continues to love and adore the aging master she has; Cindy Liper as Isabel, the weak and submissive daughter of Señor Segismundo; Partick Libao as Lemuel, the poor assistant embalmer who married Isabel for his dreams of taking over the funeral business one day; and Cherry Bagtas as Oryang, the flirty servant of the Corintos.
Set in Aringay, Pangasinan circa 1906, ‘Bangkay sa Corinto’ revolves around the sinister story of Corinto family headed by Tañada as Señor Segismundo. The curtain opened with a two women debating about their male master’s behavior toward the dead wife, named Milagros. Conflicts were added when the only daughter of the old man, Isabel tried to reason out that she doesn’t want to take over her mom’s place as the one managing the funeral parlor. It’s not the life she imagined for herself, but she wants to marry because she’s already turning 25 and her colleagues were all living a married blissful life, but her father doesn’t want her to free her from the four corners of their house.
From the funny interpretations of his previous characters, Tañada essayed a twisted role, which highlighted his sensibility as a real artist onstage as the sick old man. If everyone loved him for his antics in some of PSF’s productions, being Señor Segismundo, he is evil and will convince his audience that he is one actor that other theater companies should be mindful for. Every facial expression he made was a reflection of how he can easily shift from one character to another. He was a monster and he did sustain it till he met his tragic end.
If Tañada was fearless, so as the four other PSF prized actors. Libao went all-out in bearing his nakedness amidst his frustrations of not being able to sleep with his wife Isabel and was content in being a distant sex partner. Nacional was also at her finest as she pitted against the enormous acting of Tañada. Liper who played Cory in ‘Ako si Ninoy’ and once breathed the role of ‘Oryang’ in the same play, she made a stunning characterization of Isabel as she managed to be both sweet and scheming at the same time. Bagtas on the other hand, she portrayed her character with comfort, but personally, I was hoping for a more different internalization of Oryang; among the five characters, hers need more efforts. I felt Oryang was lagging behind in the humungous acting of the other main four characters.
Despite the darkness painted in this presentation, the moral of the story is finding ‘good’ in every ‘evil’; piercing the darkness to let the light shine through so goodness will prevail. At the conclusion of this production—Isabel’s character stood out; spotlighting that even the ‘weakest’ can be the ‘strongest’ in a matter of time. And on a positive note, the play is about empowering the feminine species; freeing them from the shackles of masculine manipulations.
The said intimate theater production will have its re-run this summer. For further details please contact telephone number (632) 7816727 or visit its PSF Studio on the fourth floor of Vincent I Bldg. 411 Calabash-A corner G. Tuazon Street Balic-Balic, Sampaloc Manila (it’s the Red-Gray building beside PS Bank of G. Tuazon).