Thursday, February 17, 2011

'Orosman at Zafira' and the curse of love

By Barry Cyrus R. Viloria,
(Original Article can be found HERE)

MANILA, Philippines — It may take a lot of more to know what the hell exactly happened onstage.

Love? War? Love and war? Dialogues with enough obscurity the audience would have chosen to live in the past? Dances? More dances? Perhaps Dulaang UP's "Orosman at Zafira" was more than what meets the eye.

I must admit: It was yet my first time to watch "Orosman at Zafira" in the theater, knowing that it's the third staging to in the past two years. The Wilfredo Ma. Guerreo Hall, where DUP plays are housed, was just a nifty place to go when I was studying in UP.

Because of its apparent impact on the younger audience, amid its true-blue nature of Francisco Balagtas text, it was re-staged again at the SM Mall of Asia Centerstage, altogether geared to attract a larger crowd.

Love, war, metaphors
The play took on the root of all evil, love, and how it can disastrously bring down the three kingdoms of Marueccos, Tedenst, and Duquela.

The forbidden love between Gulnara, the courtesan of Mahamud, ruler of Marueccos and Aldervesin, Mahamud's adopted son, commences the conflict.

With this, the Tedenst— led by the Boulasem— then ignite their ambition to govern all of the land, killing Muhamud and firing off the war that will go on for the next hundred years.
Maita Ponce (Zafira; alternated by Delphine Buencamino) and Jay Gonzaga (Orosman)

In the middle of the bloodbath, two people who come from opposing tribes also catch each other's affection through the principle of, yes, "Love at first sight". These are Zafira, the grieving daughter of Muhamud, and Orosman, technically the murderer of Muhamud.

There are also the one-way feelings of love and lust one projected towards the other: Abdalap on Zafira, Zelim on Zafira, Boulasem on Zafira, Boulasem on Gulnara and so on.

For one, these love affairs are tepid at best. Director Dexter Santos realizes that love need not be displayed. With the chorus crying "Kasumpa-sumpa man, pag-ibig, pag-ibig at pag-ibig pa rin!" on loop, Santos shows that love, before you even know it exists, can destroy you. He makes "Orosman at Zafira" as stunning with its polar perspectives on love— sustaining and rewarding, and shattering and cowering.
Santos invests in the symbolism of the play. More than 90% of the actions are meant to be not understood unless taken a double, triple or maybe quadruple look.

For example, when driven by angst, the Marueccos teamed up with the Duquelas, attack the more powerful Tedenst. There's no direct stabbing, or fake blood. But I can see that they fail and crumble.

There are also 3 major wars depicted through the complicated art of movement— strong movement— that breaks the tenets of conventional plays. However, these "wars" are just as well or even more, connotative of the struggle and abhorrence in love.

Applauding the actors
Maita Ponce worked in the first DUP edition of "Orosman at Zafira" back in 2008.
Also one of the play's strengths is the almost-perfect casting.

For one, from what I've witnessed, Maita Ponce who assumed the role of fallen princess Zafira, stole the show.

Ponce, alternated by Delphine Buencamino, doesn't just get praise from her infallible singing. From my perspective, I feel her frustrations as the daughter who just wanted to avenge his magnanimous father. Ponce cries, wails and fights. She knows that Zafira is not one to give up even in the shackles of a death sentence— a Maria Clara who gets out of her shell.

Another scene that makes Ponce the star of the show is at the end when the love of her life, Orosman, survives the war and hailed as the new king. Will she let the past go and start over with a new monarchy? Or will she ever forgive the man who brought up all the wars that spread chaos over the land? She doesn't give an answer but I can see she is deeply disturbed.

Next to Ponce is Roeder Camañag, who plays Tedenst villain Abdalap. The guy upstages Jay Gonzaga, who personified the laidback Tedenst prince Orosman with gifted... abs.

Camañag knows how sinister Abdalap is— willful, manipulative and who can pull off a glare that can induce someone into a coma. Later on, I also figure Camañag played the infamous and corrupt character, Simoun, of Jose Rival, in a separate production. Fascinating.
Roeder Camañag plays the villain, Abdalap— technically speaking— perfectly.

There were also other standouts, namely Tao Aves who plays the troubled clairvoyant and narrator Zelima, and Nazer Salcedo as the intimidating Tedenst leader Boulasem.

Also not to be undermined are the chorus, who solidify the play with their haunting dance movements.

Ancient yet young

For yet again, reintroducing Balagtas to the younger generation of the lost, I say "Orosman at Zafira" deserves everyone's praise.

The play highlights that the ancient can be interpreted to fit contemporary taste. It stresses even the lack of action pierces stronger than just action.

One of the play's best shots on this was by the band, which introduced the ethno-pop genre for the sound effects.
Led by Carol Bello, composer and musical director, the band rocks the play with its unique compositions.

Aside from setting distinctions for the tribes, the band does best what it should do with a play that curses on love and a production that rolls on metaphors: To spook.

Catch OROSMAN AT ZAFIRA on its LAST Saturday run
February 26 / 3PM / SAT @ MOA CenterStage

Ticket Price: Php350

Contact Onay @ 0918.536.2116 to reserve tickets.

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