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THEATER REVIEW: Dulaang UP’s “Six Characters In Search Of An Author” Is A Well-Balanced Mix Of Absurdist Drama And Theater Satire

The lines of illusion and reality are blurred in this adaptation of Luigi Pirandello’s meta-theatrical masterpiece, “Six Characters in Search of an Author” (and its Filipino translation, “Anim na Tauhang Naghahanap ng May-Akda) which opens Dulaang UP’s 43rd Theater Season.

Under the direction of Professor Emeritus Tony Mabesa, Founding Artistic Director of Dulaang UP, this seminal work of Modern theater will take audiences into a rumination on the distinction between illusion and reality.

Joining Tony Mabesa is a formidable and talented artistic staff which include Rody Vera (translation), Ohm David (set design), Meliton Roxas, Jr. (technical direction and lights design), Bonsai Cielo (costume design), Carlo Pagunaling (make-up), Jack Alvero (sound and music design), Winter David (video design), Dino Dimar (photography), Steven Tansiongco (poster and graphics design) and Ian Ramirez (dramaturgy).

“Six Characters in Search of an Author” opens with a theater company preparing for a rehearsal when all of a sudden, a Family dressed in mourning enters the auditorium, looking for someone who can finish their family’s story. The Family claims to be Characters who are born, but their original author did not intend to finish their story.

Then, the Father and Stepdaughter begin to tell their story, putting the entire company in astonishment. The Director eventually gains interest in the family’s drama and contemplates to stage it.

Having no background on the story of the play beforehand (which I admit was on me), I was at first confused over what is happening on stage upon the arrival of the Family. Only after a few minutes that I realized that the story was going for a meta-theatrical effect as the Director and his Actors come face to face with the actual Characters of someone else’s story.

Eventually, I was able to smoothly comprehend the events that soon followed. With its play within a play concept, we get to witness the rehearsal process as the Actors are confronted by the Characters they are portraying.

“I admire your actors. That gentleman there and that lady. But. Well. The truth is they’re certainly not us,” says one of the Characters to the Actors. There is a bit of humor watching these Characters express their criticism, as the Actors do not embody them in any way. It works like a critique on the actor’s identity and the consequences of misinterpretation.

I loved the way they’ve staged the presentation, because it definitely gives that impression that we are watching a play within another play.  Technically-wise, the production boasts some pretty nice visuals, thanks to the set, lights and sound design. They were all essential in adding to the overall atmosphere and tone of the play, and most especially, in blurring the lines between illusion and reality.

The special effects intensified the otherworldly look and feel of some of the scenes, particularly during the last few moments. I was really caught off guard by their shocking finale, complete with the atmospheric lights and sounds – leaving a haunting image in my mind long after the Director announces that the rehearsal is over that today.

The all-student ensemble was terrific in their performances, especially the ones portraying the Family. They were all equally good, as I’ve observed that each and everyone stayed in character even those who are not “on stage”. Their performances were all commendable, but there were some that really grabbed my attention, specifically the players of The Father, The Mother and The Stepdaughter. Their disgust and outrage with one another was really felt on stage.

I’d also like to give praise to The Director and Madame Pace as they managed to make everyone laugh out loud with their great comic timing. Kudos to director Tony Mabesa for bringing together this prodigious set of talented young actors and actresses, and managing to weave this work of aesthetic value.

Suffice it to say, Dulaang UP’s “Six Characters In Search Of An Author” is a well-balanced mix of absurdist drama and theater satire.

“Six Characters In Search Of An Author”, with its Filipino translation, “Anim na Tauhang Naghahanap ng May-akda” will run from September 5-30, 2018 at the Wilfredo Ma.Guerrero Theater, 2nd floor Palma Hall, U.P. Diliman, Quezon City.

For tickets and show-buying inquiries, contact Erika Lava (0906 224 1034) or Gio Dexter Santos (0916 555 2782) or you may send an email at [email protected]; for sponsorships, contact Joshua Chan at 0917 677 5141; or you may also call the Dulaang UP Office (Tel.: 926- 1349 / 981-8500 local 24-49).

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