When you think of a crazy concept, but not far from getting realized in the future, Dulaang UP’s recent production—‘Collection’ written by Floy Quintos and directed by Dexter Santos is one that would shake the audience’s sensibilities.
The said black comedy deals with a wide gamut of themes, and watching it provides the audience to a roller-coaster ride.
Set in a present-day Manila. Greed and materialism is the main overarching theme of the play, which has painted a disturbing picture of a society in search of something, which they thought as the next big thing—the discovery of a 17th century ivory image of the Virgin of the Lost Souls and soon-to-be-auctioned for bidding. It awakened the acquisitive desires of the rich and the famous after gaining all the historical and national treasures—like the Banaue Rice Terraces.
Quintos was successful in presenting a fictional government agency called the National Commission on the Disposal of Philippine Patrimony. The agency’s proceeds go to a national lottery, designed to combat poverty via dole outs. One can simply imagine how people will lose their soul and their identity as Filipinos when these treasures end up in the hands of the greedy rich and elites.
The team-up of Santos and Quintos has taken their audience to a journey to two worlds—17th century and the fictional society.
Santos was able to mount effectively each scene that has to work for truth. It was disturbing. It was both challenging and exciting; for it had to assemble 57 actors onstage with each having their own blocking and intention.
All the major characters left unforgettable images for their audience. Jeremy Domingo as the auctioneer Carlo Vibar showcased his versatility as the lead. His other co-actors—Leo Rialp, Alya Honasan, Alexander Cortez, Red Concepcion, Jean Judith Javier have their respective shining moments, and nothing you could throw away when they took their cues. Javier on one hand, made an effective portrayal of her role as she essayed both Helena De Zialcita and the Babylan characters. Oh, another talent not to set aside was Teetin Villanueva. Her singing voice was angelic that it became enigmatic in the process.
One of the brilliant parts of this play is the parallelism of the characters as presented during the 17th century and the present-day Manila. It was such a genius for connecting the two worlds, which Quintos can only do, and was successful in telling a story about the lost image and how it got corrupted by the greediness of the rich few in the now.
In this production, Santos’s choreography, which he did with precision as he intricately, staged each of his actors’ exposure. Truly, in an interview, he said, “Every time I choreograph, I make sure that the dances are not there for effect or spectacle.
“Every movement must have a reason. I integrate dances in a play to add texture, to push forward the action, to explore the inner emotions of the scenes and to use the movement’s physicality to connect to the audiences.”
Santos did it very well. There was no doubt. He outsmarted his work in ‘Orosman at Zafira’. Here, though the choreography is simple and sparse, yet it gave the story more meaning to its message.
On the other hand, Ohm David and John Batalla’s collaborative work was something that could be compared to a series of ‘breath-taking sceneries’ that surely stuck in the audience’s mind. The cave-like backdrop and the lighting were just perfectly put together; making sure that the set and the lights interact well with the performers onstage. It was a masterpiece altogether.
Again, ‘Collection’ proved as another winning tandem between Santos and Quintos. Both do resonate in their great passion for ecclesiastical arts, and mind you they were *too* in love with their respective works—now, that makes them the artists to celebrate about and for the upcoming theatre aspirants to emulate.
Quintos in an interview also mentioned his thoughts about Santos as the director, “I love his open-ness, his visual flair, his imaginative and precise staging. We respect each other and that is why our process works well. He stages, I suggest, he re-does it, we work on problems together. And since both of us believe that the play is the thing, then we discuss endlessly on how to make it better. He has a sense of humility about what he does, but he is also a perfectionist. I am so glad we shared this production. “
This original stage production ran from February 13 and had additional shows till March 7 at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.