By Patricia Simone Dauz

The late Master Rapper, Francis Magalona(popularly known as Francis M.),had been able to inject hip-hop culture in his music, witha much-needed dose of patriotism through the lyrics of his songs. He was able to imbibe a sense of nationhood among the youth who patronized his works.      

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PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) is a theater company known for staging Filipino plays full of social commentary. During the Martial Law, it has never strayed from that path, by mounting the “aesthetics of poverty” in makeshift production designs at their old home in the Rajah Sulayman Theater.

Today, in their resident black box theater, a musical utilizing well-known songs of Francis M. tells a story of class divided and a lost history. Set in Pinasland, which is our dystopian country 80 years in the future, playwrights Rody Vera and Mix Villalon were able to envision a totalitarian form of government, even though they are from different generations.      The delineation between the oppressors and the oppressed was very conspicuous because the snow-white sleek and edgy couture, worn by folks from Lumino, contrasted greatly with the tattered grunge-cum-punk clothes worn by Diliman residents, particularly by the Tropang Gising. The narrative focuses on the latter group’s rebellion led by Sol (NiccoManalo). Their aggressiveness and persistence to fight for what they think is right mirrors the angry young Filipino rebels who’d joined the resistance and abandoned their studies. Instead of conforming, they are willing to take risks.

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On the other hand, Diane (Giannina Ocampo), represents the youth of the privileged class. She has a servant to do her hair and tend to her needs, but she also has an absentee mother, Vidame Inky (Che Ramos), the current leader of Stormdome. She moves and talks like Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games. In the musical, it wasn’t clear what the protective dome housing, the surviving residents of the land was made of. What’s clear is that, it prevents the adverse effects of nuclear warfare outside from harming the people inside. No one can get in or get out because of a story handed down by generations to these kids.

On a musical level, the play was impressive, even magnificent in some parts, particularly the ballroom suite where Diane learns what reconditioning does to people, and where her servant really came from.

Myke Salomon definitely knows what he’s doing. The rapping was passable because the beat was there, even though some actors were “eating the words”. The set is mostly made of wood, painted to look like a bunch of steel pipes, creates a sense of disorder and confinement which is just what the world is envisioned by the director, Nor Domingo.

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However, the characters were not relatable because they didn’t feel real. They’re just black and white. These were not the actors’ fault since their energy was just right. They can only do so much with the material provided to them.

A good example of this is Poy’s (Nar Cabico) relationship with Nazty (Anna Luna). Instead of calling her “babe” every time he would forget that she’s his girlfriend, it would have been better if they had quiet moments staring into each other and talking about their future when their plan to overthrow Luminowould succeed. Sol doesn’t appear to care about anything else other than his ideals. I felt as if the characters just existed to merely move the plotline forward.

Or, maybe the director made the characters utilitarian in nature, particularly the rebels, because he believed on the ideal and nothing else is more important. One message though is crystal clear. It is to take risk by retracing our history and choosing carefully which part we want to believe. PETA has undertaken a great risk in staging a musical based on the songs of a single artist after the huge success of Rak of Aegis.

So far, 3 Stars and a Sun showed potential. Even PiaMagalona, who watched that night (January 30), commended on how the songs fit, based on every scene they were used for. But of course, it was only the press preview night and artistic director Maribel Legarda said that some technical details will still be refined within the coming week. There is light beyond the Stormdome.

The musical runs from February 4 to March 6 at the PETA-PHINMA Theater.

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