Dulaang UP’s last production to close its 38th theater season, titled ‘Ang Nawalang Kapatid’ is a spectacular production that brings together the many ‘geniuses’ of Filipino artists. It opened on February 5 and will have its extended run on March 14 and 15 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.
After watching an original production at UPLB, I was treated to an original musical adaptation from the great Indian Epic—the Mahabharata with book and lyrics by Floy Quintos, original music by Ceejay Javier, and directed by the Steven Spielberg in Philippine theater—Dexter Santos.
Given the complexities of the Mahabharata’s texts with its varied versions, Quintos’s version is probably told in the simplest, clearest, and closest to the Filipino audience. It recreated a certain feel of a TeleNovela-like done in a musical. Watching the entire production promises an experience that one will realize—the horrors and the aftermaths of wars.
Ohm David and Melton Roxas did a fabulous set based on the original production of Ateneo Children’s Theater in 2010, which was inspired by the Ajanta Cave paintings and was designed back then by Joe Tecson. It painted a sceme reminiscent of the ‘Lion King’. It was like transporting the audience to a Walt Disney animated film.
Apart from the many challenges that this production did face in terms of technical aspects—it is also considered a great challenge for Santos to direct an all-student cast and production so as the backstage staff, but he was able to elevate his way of directing a notch-higher compared to his previous, famous work via ‘Orosman at Zafira’.
A Dexter Santos stage presentation will never fail its audience with its choreography. Santos along with his co-choreographers—Al Bernard Garcia, Jeffrey Hernandez, Vincent Kevin Pajara, and Stephen Viñas; they have created movements especially that of the monkeys—were awesome; not even the Atlantis Production’s ‘Tarzan’ can match it. They have put drama and were able to translate the storytelling through movements.
Kudos to the musicians who provided the impeccable and authentic music of this production like the pianists—Farley Asuncion, Molinder Cadiz, Van Quiaong; the drummers—Jonah Ruiz, Alden Acoste, and Rigil Borromeo; the bassists—Charlene Allen Mamaid and Vincent Dela Cruz; they all did a great job.
None of the cast members were boring, but all of them have equally stood out in their respective moments. Of course Jules Dela Paz as Vyasa is nowhere to be set aside. The Pandava brothers—Ross Pesigan as the lost brother—Karna, Jon Abella as Yudisthira, Stephen Viñas as Bhima, and Lance Reblando as Arjuna were all engaging and did sterling performances. However, Vincent Kevin Pajara as the crooked Duryodhana showed ease and grace in acting, dancing as well as in singing; and his undergraduate thesis work is enough to earn his degree in theater arts with flying colors.
Other notable performances were from Teetin Villanueva as Draupadi and also appeared in ‘Collection’ as La Hermana Augusta Beata and Ronah Adiel Rostata as Reyna Kunti. Student actors like Mark Balacat as Haring Pandu, Liana Ilka Chase Salazar as Reyna Ghandari, Gabo Tolentino as Shakuni, Al Bernard Garcia as Drona, Diana Formosa as Kali—all did great contributions to the advancements of the lead cast members’ characterizations. John Paul Basco as Krishna, Jeffrey Hernandez as Hanuman, and Marvin Olaes as Dritarastra did remarkable portrayals, too.
‘Ang Nawalang Kapatid’ is yet Santos’s best work after ‘Collection’ and ‘Maxie the Musical’. The production does not just call for mere applause, but a well-deserved standing ovation. He has outdone his ‘bests’ and made a more deeper, subtler, and mature execution as opposed to ‘Orosman at Zafira’.