By Patricia Simone Dauz
Overall, the production has the potential to be a really tight period play, if it will not continue to be overly dramatized.
Many stories about the Japanese war have been written and staged in various theater companies in our country. And Philippine Stagers Foundation did a musical about this era. Coincidentally, three actors from the said group play significant roles on the ongoing production of Abo ang Kulay ng Madaling Araw.
Raymond Rances, who played one of the villains in PSF’s Filipinas 1941 plays the antihero Carding. From the devoted husband in Act 1 who just wanted to have a normal family life despite the loss of his son, his attitude towards life turned 360 degrees in Act 2, hating Japanese collaborators to the point that he would kill relatives for it.
Angelica Mercado plays Penang, the confidante of Lucing, as well as the beloved of Gondoy, who was played by Erwin Ignacio, also a former Stagers like Mercado. The lead role of Lucing is essayed by Gantimpala Theater Foundation alumnus Kathy Arguelles, who poured so much energy into the role that one can’t help but wince at her character’s pain.
Kristine Pacquiao plays the role of Alicia, the lover of Ruben, one of the freedom fighters. Her uncle is the Filipino boxing champ of the same surname. Reportedly, she was texted by her manager Regie Picayo about the auditions for the play. Even though she originally wanted to be a commercial model and television actress, she eventually came to love the stage.
The play is adapted from Steven Javellana’s sole English novel Without Seeing the Dawn by Marlon Mente who is also the director. He took the Herculean task of making a balanced blocking for a theatrical space that’s neither proscenium nor arena. The play was adapted for the silver screen before by Lino Brocka and even starred Fernando Poe, Jr., and Hilda Koronel. One of the best reasons to watch this production is Nis Obispo. An alumnus of PUP Polyrepertory Theater, he was a complete standout in his role. Unlike the other actors who were prone to over-the-top hysterics, he was able to command the attention of the audience when he delivered his monologue. He just stood still and it was as if time just stopped, as this writer was engrossed in his narration of the story of a Filipino migrant in America who wanted to marry an American prostitute, just because of his nationality.
Another commendable aspect of this production is the stage design. The set really looks like the interior of a hut and household items that helped elevate the sense of realism. Props were meticulously placed all throughout the stage in a logical fashion. When I say logical, it means that they were arranged in a way that they can be seen by the audience but are not distracting to the eye. The “bayong”, “bilao”, and “banig” were placed near the shelf where the pottery and other kitchen utensils were.
However, the clothes of the rebels were sometimes too clean, making this writer wonder if they went around killing Japanese soldiers and traitors, or they just went to the mall. The music could have been better if the rhythm used was more placid, which would have been the case if the scorer just used a minimal number of notes.
The play will run on November 28-29, December 2-4, and December 8-11, at the Rajah Sulayman Theater located inside Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila. There will also be stagings in January but exact dates are yet to be announced.