Virtual love, rejection and emotional transformation

This is how Nanding Josef, Tanghalang Pilipino’s artistic director, describes Pangarap Sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw, the theater company’s latest production, which celebrates the magical power of love and its excesses and foolishness.

The resident drama company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines gathers an ensemble cast led by Audie Gemora, Liesl Batucan, Jackie Lou Blanco and Rafa Siguion-Reyna to stage the production that also commemorates the 400th death anniversary of the greatest writer and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist,William Shakespeare.

Translated in Filipino by National Artist Rolando Tinio, Pangarap Sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw is an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, considered one of the English playwright’s most controversial works.

Believed to be written in a highly creative period in Shakespeare’s career, when he was moving away from the shallow plots that characterized his earlier drama, the comedy centers on the adventures of four young lovers and a group of amateur actors, their interactions with woodland fairies and a duke and duchess.

Taking place in a mythical Athens and an enchanted forest, there is a handsome fairy king, a misguided parent, star-crossed lovers, a weaver who’s transformed into a half-donkey, wood sprites and elves. It centers on the events surrounding the marriage of Duke Theseus of Athens to the Amazon queen Hippolyta, and follows the stories of a band of fairies, a troupe of players and an Athenian love triangle between Hermia, her lover Lysander and suitor Demetrius.

The cast of ‘Pangarap Sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw’ with director Carlitos Siguion-Reyna (fourth from left) and Tanghalang Pilipino artistic director Nanding Josef (fourth from right)

In this unique adaptation by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, the audience will experience the powerful juxtaposition of two worlds—Athens, the home of the powers-that-be, rigid and structured, vis-à-vis the home of enchanting creatures, the forest, a place where unbridled passions run free.

The dialogue, said the director, will be in Filipino and English, “Although it is a Filipino adaptation, we decided to use Filipino, English and even Taglish. While we showcase how beautiful our language is and how Tinio creatively weaved the words to appeal to local audience, each language has its own representation which the audience will notice once they see the show. For instance, English is the language of characters who appear in the court while the ordinary characters use Filipino.”

He furthered that the play’s intention is to identify the characters’ place in the order through the language they use. The setting is already a juxtaposition of two worlds – the structured Athens, the home of the powerful characters in the story, and the enchanting woods where unbridled passion runs free. In essence, there is a conscious effort to reflect reality since the story itself has a lot of elements and it is not just a whimsical story that talks about stories having fun.

“The rich text from Shakespeare and Tinio has allowed us to use the mishmash of English and Tagalog. Using both languages reflect the conflict between orders and the idea of passion gone chaotic,” Siguion-Reyna added.

He explained that the play has a lot of dark elements that revolve around the study of contrast: there’s the contrast between fakery and authenticity; ego versus evil; and reason and sanity versus emotional lunacy, to name a few.

“This allows the audience to analyze the play, which is abstract enough and open to interpretation. Between the horror and comedy, the mix result in to a provocative staging where you can find yourself in your own ‘woods,’ a place of uncertainty, magic and wonder. And that’s what we are going to explore,” Siguion-Reyna shared.

The rest of the cast includes Skyzx Labastilla, Teroy Guzman, Richard Cunanan, Teroy Guzman, Kristofer Kliatchko and the Tanghalang Pilipino Actor’s Company. It will run for a limited three weekends from Sept. 30 to Oct. 16 at the CCP’s Tanghalang Huseng Batute.

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