Sunday, October 5, 2008

Teresita

Theater Production Review...  
Teresita Performed by AGHAM (University of Makati)
 
 
Though the title evokes some kind of a contemporary theater production similar to Carmen or Miss Saigon, truth of the matter is that this play is nothing anywhere near the two mentioned plays. In fact, it is actually a depiction of St. Therese. Expectedly, the story centered about the ups and downs of the young lady who wanted to serve the convent at a very young age.

To be fair, the set design of the production was commendable. On the left side of the stage, they have set up a revolving set piece of house façade that when turned becomes a bedroom. On the right side, they have built pillars and arches to resemble a church, convent, and mausoleum. On the background is a painting of houses in 18th century France. The costume was also well thought of as they bring to life French couture. The lighting added some effect to the show such as spotlighting characters and switch on and off for rapid song numbers.

The production also employed showers of glitters to portray snow, and a shower of supposed-to-be petals which in a closer look are cut papers. The stage is wide enough, ideal for movements. I think the stage is a third bigger than Guillermo Tolentino’s. Even the theater is big. It’s a little bigger than Tolentino’s with balconies. Smoke machine was also utilized for some scenes especially during the earlier scenes. The actors used wireless microphones. The kind of microphones you put on your ears so that the head will be near your mouth. I was awed because I didn’t expect that a university stage play production would have such equipment.

On the other hand, there were really some bothering things about the play that made want to leave my chair and rather do my homework or study for my exams. First thing, the play started forty minutes late. Then before the play started, it was all black and they started releasing smoke. I could not understand why they had to use smoke since the opening is not a dreamy sequence or not even a dramatic one. It was supposed to awesome, but it bcame oh-boy!

 To myself I just thought, maybe they wanted the smoke machine to be used anyway. So during the you-can-hardly-call overture, the towns people started limping and jumping as if they were ballerinas but they were not synchronized and because the men were dancing, the way they danced distracted me from the overall performance plus the audio was too loud.

 After seeing the first part, I didn’t expect anything from the play anymore. It was so disappointing. Then enter the girls and sang their parts. I was even more surprised that the play was actually a musical. I wasn’t aware of it. Perhaps I have grown accustomed to Broadway musical’s way of singing their lines that I couldn’t help looking for that element in other musicals that I see. I have noticed that in Broadway, lyrics fit the dialogue and it comes smoothly throughout the song. The words are pronounced clearly for the audience to hear. But in Teresita, the lyrics doesn’t make any sense. It’s like the lyrics just came out of the blue that even if it does not express the lines demanded from the scene, the lyricist still pushed them in perhaps out of stress. We can never be sure. Also the order of the song is very incoherent.

In one scene there is an ecstatic song number then shifts to a melancholic one. Consider the scene where Teresita’s family meet the town’s priest where they go all jumping and feasting then Teresita’s family move’s away and Teresita sings sadly because she seems to be enduring some lonely feeling. Without much ado, the funeral procession then came out from the back and the audience realizes that it is Teresita’s mother who just died that’s why Teresita is sad.

The story is even lamer. If I were a five-year old kid and I was to summarize the play then it would be like this- Teresita wanted to become a nun but she is still young so the cardinal didn’t allow her. She was persistent so in the end she became what she wanted to be. But because she’s weak, she died in the end. The whole time I was watching this play, I kept on expecting the climax but there is just no climax that I can think of. The story just ended where it is supposed to end.

At the start of the play, a narrator tells the audience when and where Teresita was born and died. So in effect, I think the whole point of the one-and-a-half hour play was just to wait for Teresita to die, which in my opinion did not really give justice to be called an ending. The singers are good, but they can be better. The father of Teresita for instance seems to be lacking a gift for notes that you hear him sing the way a very old cassette tape would (with scratches). Some singers go out of tune and most of all, their hand movements are very distracting. Every word stressed is accompanied by a generic hand movement- directed to the audience, to the sky, to the left, and to the right. It feels so artificial that it is so difficult to get hooked with the story. If the director is Brechtan then he did an excellent job.

Seriously, I was a bit irritated with all those hand gestures. The actors also do not maximize the stage. They just stay in one area if they have a song sequence. However, I must say that Teresita had a good voice along with her sisters. There was this Cardinal in the play who sings like April Boy Regino and I couldn’t help smiling when he sings. His voice was so high that he only needs to wear a cap and belt out, “di ko kayang tanggapin…”

My only recommendation to the play is for the director to rearrange everything. From the musical scoring to the lyrics. The choreography was not bad but more practice is needed. And since the men should portray as men, they should look like one. It’s acting after all, and if their dancing is so sissy then it defeats the purpose of putting men in the scene. They should appear strong and lean.

The singers should also rehearse their songs and make sure they get the right tones. Before the show begins, they should check the audio equipment so that technical glitches can be avoided. The revolving set piece should also be made in such a way that it will move faster because in certain scenes where the set piece should have been moved, the audience still sees it being pushed.

Lastly, the story should be revised (I wonder if they have consulted the script to a professional stage director). I think the story would be better this way. Teresita should not be portrayed as weak and submissive. She should be more aggressive and purposeful. She must have a love interest but because she felt the need to become a nun, she left her lover. The man, broken-hearted, convinces Teresita to flee with him and live a free life, Teresita was about to give in when she learns that her father died. Feeling guilty, Teresita refuses her lover and remained inside the convent. After some years, Teresita learns that her lover committed suicide. Because of this news, Teresita got ill and also died. And just like in any other tragic stories, there must be some comic relief so there must be a funny character.

These are some of my thoughts about the play Teresita. In my opinion, the play considering it was done by university students (University of Makati students) was an average one. It could be better though. It may sound a bit of a bias but Dulaang UP really set my standard in watching stage plays that if a play doesn’t measure up to the kind of plays DUP presents then they are still average or worse below.

But as for Teresita, I’ll give it 6 out of 10.

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