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Shocking, charming, timely stories at this year’s Virgin Lab Fest

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Review

THERE’S A reason why Tulad ng Dati was sandwiched between two comedy-filled Virgin Lab Fest entries: it’s shocking.

For the benefit of those who have yet to watch the festival, which is ongoing until July 15, Tulad ng Dati is about the meeting of two brothers after the elder finishes a jail sentence. It’s a reunion story where the two reminisce about their past — until they finally talk about their dark secret.

The 30-minute one-act play starts slowly: the two brothers talk about the lives they live inside and outside jail. Then the dialogue inevitably moves forward towards the men’s shocking secret. Their secret — literally and figuratively — is mind fucking. Okay, that’s the only clue I’ll give.

JV Ibesate, the playwright, said the story was not based on real life, but was inspired from a film he had seen.

“Brothers do have special bonds — I do with my own brother — and so I thought of anchoring the story in this thought. Eh, nabaliw ako nang konti (I went a little crazy) — I thought of taking it to the extreme and see where it goes. I understand that it could be alarming. Wala eh, baliw lang po talaga ako (It nothing, I am just really crazy),” he told the audience after the show.

Tulad ng Dati is part of the Virgin Lab Fest’s Set C together with Labor Room and Ensayo.

The festival of first-run or “virgin” one-act plays groups several pieces into different sets to make a full performance.

Before Lihim came Labor Room, written by Ma. Cecilia dela Rosa and directed by José Estrella.

The “virgin” play plays on the idea of devirginized women, as in mothers — a first time mother, a woman who has just lost what would have been her first child, and a mother who already has five children — and their thoughts while inside a public hospital’s labor room.

The story was inspired by the chaos that the writer witnessed in a labor room in a public hospital in Bicol.

Using Filipino humor, the play makes fun of serious matters like the outsized ratios between patients and doctors; patients and beds; and patients and nurses.

But it gets serious when it talks about the plight of women who want to bear a child but can’t and those who didn’t want another child but are already knocked up by their boyfriends, husbands, or live-in partners.

Set C ends with the lighthearted story Ensayo, written by Juan Ekis and directed by Eric Villanueva dela Cruz.

Starring Shirley Lara and Bembol Rocco, Ensayo is a romantic comedy about two older people practicing a kissing scene for their drama class presentation.

Surprisingly, there’s still a thrill between the two characters who could pass as Kathniel’s or Jadine’s grandparents.

Ensayo is cute and light, and if there’s any take away, it is that we don’t have to follow a timeline in life. We can still sign up for an acting workshop at 65 and find love while at it.

The Virgin Lab Fest is on view at the Cultural Center of the Philippines until July 15.

Set A will have performances on July 6, 11, and 15, at 3 p.m., and on July 5, 10, and 14 at 8 p.m. Set B will have performances on July 7 and 12 at 3 p.m., and on July 6, 11, 15 at 8 p.m. Set C will have performances on July 8 and 13 at 3 p.m., and July 7, and 12 at 8 p.m. Set D will have performances on July 5, 10, and 14 at 3 p.m., and July 8 and 13 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are available at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Ticketworld. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

For details on the other Virgin Lab Fest shows, read: Virgin Labfest presents a Marawi-inspired musical alongside an EJK play and more

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