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Showing posts from February, 2017

A long tram ride

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The appointment reminds me of my daily commute when I was still working at an office in Manila. It’s long, repetitive. I didn't quite like where I was going. The difference between me and the first-person narrator of the novel is that she’s observant of her surroundings, while I’m busy inside my mind. And when she goes inside hers, she dissects memories, while I weave fantasies.

She’s far more eloquent, too. Not to mention her problems are bigger than mine. But those go without saying.

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I’ve had great experiences so far with Nobel Laureates. Well, that simply meant Jose Saramago and Mario Vargas Llosa. The next Nobel Prize-winning author I acquainted myself with was Herta Müller.

I’m reminded of Saramago, because of the language. Hers is as readily distinct. She doesn’t use quotations and question marks. Her sentences don’t flow smoothly like a water stream, though the narrative — set at a tram ride going to said appointment and moves between the present and flashbacks concerning…

The music in 'Agnes of God'

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Becca Coates has the voice of an angel — fitting for the innocent, music-loving nun she plays; but it’s the veteran voices of Pinky Amador and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo that make Repertory Philippines’ Agnes of God sing and soar.

Psychiatrist Dr. Martha Livingston (Lauchgenco-Yulo) is appointed by the court to examine Agnes (Coates), a 21-year-old novice whose newborn — which she claims to have been fathered by God — is found dead in a wastebasket. At the convent, the doctor is greeted by Mother Superior Miriam Ruth (Amador), and what follows is a long argument on science, religion, and the best way to protect Agnes from manslaughter charges.

For a straight play, John Pielmeier’s Agnes of God has an amazing sense of rhythm. It moves from Dr. Livingston delivering a monologue, to a pair of characters in conversation (whether in quick-fire repartee, humorous banter, or calm give-and-take), to all three sharing a scene, then back to Dr. Livingston addressing the audience, restarting the cyc…

Rex Navarrete on offensive jokes

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Glad to have met Rex Navarrete. I've always wanted to catch him live since hearing SBC Packers and watching Hella Pinoy online (that Sto Niño joke!). Here's the short Q&A I had with him when he was promoting his last show in Manila, Extra Judicial Kidding. This was published on GIST.

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GIST: What makes a joke?

REX NAVARRETE: There’s got to be a story in there. Most of the time it helps that it’s based on reality. But what goes into a joke? It’s got to be funny. It can be deep and have so many levels to it, but it still has to be funny. You still need that laugh to let you off the hook, especially with political writers, people who write about touchy subjects. There always has to be an exit plan and it has to be funny to stick with you. And they have to have a purpose — why am I talking about this? Why is this important?

Is there such a thing as an offensive joke?

Yes. A lot.

Do you tell these kinds of jokes?

No — I mean, it depends on who you are. Some people can take (my cri…

An ideal female friendship

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Wicked has a great score going for it. That along with quirky-fantastical set designs and costumes should be enough to make theatergoers buy a ticket. But the musical adaptation of the Gregory Maguire novel refuses to be another song-and-dance extravaganza. At its core are characters ready to be remembered.

While the title suggests an origin story of L. Frank Baum’s green-skinned witch (from his children’s classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), the musical, whether deliberately or not, highlights the bond between Elphaba “The Wicked Witch of the West” and Galinda “The Good Witch of the South.” And it understands female friendships rather well — the insecurity, the jealousy, the preoccupation with appearance.

Galinda is just written to be adored — by her peers for her charm; by the audience for her antics. She’s a smart blonde (It’s not about aptitude, / It’s the way you’re viewed, / So it’s very shrewd to be / Very, very popular / Like me). But as immature as she may be, you cannot qu…

Wit conquers all

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Miguel Faustmann’s set is inspired. The stage is transformed into a living room straight out of a magazine. Wicker chairs, stone walls, wooden floor and ceiling. Plants, lamps, picture frames. But it’s the slant of light, a convincing sunshine passing through the window, that lends it life. It fools you into thinking that what you’re about to witness is a family drama.

Far from it. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang is hilarious, with gags leaning towards the downright silly. Imagine having a housekeeper-slash-soothsayer, a guy who hates wearing clothes, and an aspiring actress eager to take on the role of a molecule thrown into the mix of characters inhabiting present-day Pennsylvania.

The play, which has won a Tony Award in 2013 and is winning new audiences with Repertory Philippines’ production directed by Bart Guingona, tells the story of three siblings in their fifties: Vanya (Michael Williams) — gay and contented; Sonia (Rosalyn Perez) — spinster, lives a…

The secret to a good story

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The elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was a gift I received in Christmas 2014. I couldn't be more thankful. Each page was gold and upon finishing I vowed to hunt for more Barbery in book stores. Turned out she had only written this other novel, Gourmet rhapsody—which I didn't buy at the time for some reason.

Christmastime 2016, I saw her name again on paperback. The life of elves. Sold.

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Didn't expect that a fantastical, dream-like tale would come from the same person who wrote a sharp, funny narrative concerning the everyday.


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Thought of giving up on this book on several occasions, but brilliant bits keep popping up.

Her caste had betrothed her to the role of bored heiress, but fate had made a daydreamer of her, gifted with otherworldly power, to such good effect that in her presence you felt as if a window onto infinity had been opened, and you understood that it was by delving into yourself that you escaped imprisonment.
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I find the narration difficult to fo…