Wednesday, October 23, 2013

“Closer” by Red Turnip Theater – Best of Filipino Theatre Arts

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Original Article can be found HERE

In the entertainment industry, true talent is best shown in a theatrical setting where a story is told without the elaborate special effects or movie editing. Life for stage actors is not easy because each performance must be perfect. There are no “take two” or short cuts for a scene. Therefore, actors who perform live on stage are artists with exceptional talent and stamina to deliver consistent quality in acting.

This month in Manila, the ongoing local stage production of “Closer” is definitely a venue where one can find actors with exceptional acting abilities. “Closer” is an award-winning play by English dramatist Patrick Marber. The play made its debut in 1997 at the Royal National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre in London, England and it won Evening Standard “Best Comedy Award” and the prestigious “Laurence Olivier Award” in 1998 for “Best New Play”. This play had a movie version in 2004 of the same title by director Mike Nichols and stars Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Clive Owen. 

“Everything is a version of something else.” 

The Manila production of “Closer” is brought to us by a new theatre company called “Red Turnip Theater” and directed by Ana Abad Santos.

The venue is at Whitespace Theater along Chino Roces Avenue Extension (formerly Pasong Tamo Extension). The stage is not the conventional elevated platform. The stage is at the centre of the room while the audience is seated around the stage. The actors are very close to the audience (just a few feet away) thus, there is an effective interaction between the audience and the actors. One can really imagine being part of some emotionally intense scenes that are loud and alive, and just a few feet away from you. 

An Expat’s Guide to Philippine Theatre Arts
Top left, clockwise: The Philippine production of “Closer” with Angel Aquino, Bart Guingona, Marc Abaya and Cris Villonco

These actors are more than pretty faces or famous names on TV or stage. They are Filipinos who dedicated several years of their lives in perfecting their craft and even travelled the world to train further in the performing arts.

  • Angel Aquino as Anna – She is a multi-awarded actress and model with an acting career since 1999. Just recently, she won “Best Supporting Actress” award for the movie “Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita”.

  • Cris Villonco as Alice – At age nine, Cris started her singing career and eventually performed on stage. She is an actor and recording artist. In 2011, she won “Gawad Buhay Best Actress in a Musical” as Maria Clara in “Noli Me Tangere”. She has a degree in Liberal Arts with concentrations in Music and Economic Development from Sarah Lawrence College, New York. In 2000, Cris was featured in TIME Magazine (International Edition) as “Hero for the Planet”.

  • Bart Guingona as Larry – In 2003, he won Aliw Awards for Best Stage Actor. He is also a directory for Repertory Philippines. He had two theatre grants in London, one for theatre direction. He is currently the artistic director and president of Actor’s Actors Inc. Just recently, he won as “Best Stage Director” and “Best Actor” for Aliw Awards for the The Necessary Theatre (TNT) production of “Red”.

  • Marc Abaya as Dan – Marc has been acting since 2005 and has done numerous films and TV shows. In 2010, he won “Best Actor” for the role of Pido in the movie “Dagim”.

Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice: This is the memorial tablet of Alice Ayres found at Postman’s Park, London which is one of the topic of conversation in “Closer”. One of the characters in the play calls herself “Alice Ayres” and patterns her actions and personality based on the details from this tablet. This historical tablet was designed by William De Morgan.

The story of “Closer” revolves around the lives of four people. On the first act we find Alice walking in the streets of London and she got ran over by a cab. She met a stranger named Dan who brought her to the emergency room. From there, the two became star-crossed lovers. At the ER, they also met a doctor named Larry whom they encountered in interesting future events. Dan makes a living by writing obituaries. He eventually wrote a book about the life story of his lover, Alice. During a photo shoot of his book’s cover, he met and fell in love with the photographer, Anna. Alice was aware of the secret deception while Anna tried to avoid getting involved with Dan. Eventually, with Larry in the picture as Anna’s husband, Dan’s selfishness eventually lead towards a destructive web of lies.

The story of “Closer” touches the issue on how betrayal and infidelity can ruin a person’s life. Some people survive from a breakup, while others don’t and they suffer in silence. It was quite fascinating though that one of the characters had self-destructive tendencies but ended up putting sense and order in the messed-up lives of the other characters. A simple lesson about relationships – “Do the right thing.”

From the play, we also see the difference between a man and a woman based on how they react towards an unfaithful lover. Men are more verbal about their shattered ego and they want to know even the dirty details on how they got cheated on. As Dan says in one part, “Because I want to know everything. Because…I’m insane. Tell me.”

Women tend to be in raging anger at first, the suddenly silent about it. Women would rather just walk away as they feel unsafe being around a liar.

Some of the lines of the script are witty, funny or sometimes sarcastic but in a nutshell, it tells the difference between love and selfishness. It is surprising that one of the characters in the story lived with a lover for years without even knowing that person’s real name or that person’s psychiatric condition. Therefore, the play shows us that in the real world, there are many selfish people who start a relationship only to please themselves rather than to give unconditionally to another person. The script conveys that many people use love as an excuse for their selfish motives, and most people do not know the difference.

Life Lessons

When you watch any play on stage, it is wise to pay attention to the script of the actors. It is the heart and soul of the play because it is the writer’s medium in sharing important life lessons to the audience. From “Closer”, there are a lot of memorable lines that most people can relate with. “Closer” brings justice and clarity to anyone who has ever loved, got betrayed and survived betrayal or still struggling to recover from it.

Here are some of the memorable lines from the play:

About falling in love:
Alice: That’s the most stupid expression in the world. ‘I fell in love’—as if you had no choice. There’s a moment, there’s always a moment; I can do this, I can give in to this or I can resist it. I don’t know when your moment was but I bet there was one.

About moving on:
Larry: Of course I’ll forgive her. I have forgiven her. Without forgiveness, we’re savages.

Interesting Merchandise at Whitespace

When you come and watch the show, you’ll find a lot of interesting things at the lobby of Whitespace Theater.  Before the show, why not purchase their informative souvenir programme? This is available in glossy print and it contains photos of the actors and the cast and crew. This is a cool way to get to know their impressive credentials in the entertainment industry. The souvenir programme includes a CD with video of the online trailer of “Closer”. This beautiful video trailer is directed by Marie Jamora.

Souvenir programme for “Closer” for a better look at our talented actors, cast and crew. This includes a CD with video of their online trailer. You may purchase this at the front desk of the theatre’s lobby.

Another cute souvenir item on sale is a tote bag with the “Red Turnip Theater” logo. It comes in two sizes: medium and large. This is a perfect souvenir to bring home after the show.
Red Turnip Theater tote bag. Available on sale at the front desk of the theatre’s lobby

The best part of the hanging out at the theatre’s lobby after the show is the chance to meet and greet the cast.

“She was…disarming.” (a quote from “Closer”) Meeting the lovely cast of “Closer” after the show, (left) Angel Aquino and (right) Cris Villonco.

Catch Red Turnip Theater's CLOSER
OCT 26 2013 | SAT | 3PM| Whitespace, Makati
Patron Ticket Prices: 1000 
Contact:  Onay Sales 0917.908.0565 or Jayme 0927.202.2017

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