Lungs: a relatable and powerful 90-minute play

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By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman, Reporter

Theater Review
By Duncan MacMillan
Presented by The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical
Weekends from Sept. 22 to Oct. 7
Power Mac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati

BREATHE in. Breathe out. If you don’t, you’ll run out of stamina trying to keep up with Lungs, a rapid-fire 90-minute play about lovers M (Jake Cuenca) and W (Sab Jose) who are both striving to be conscientious members of society while figuring out their personal lives, as in, planning to conceive a child.

The longtime lovers are conversing and compromising: Can we raise a child? What kind of parents are we going to be? Are we ready? How can we raise a child despite what’s happening around us?

For W, it’s more than just the act of making love just to get it over and done — she’s hounded by thoughts of a growing a baby bump, of boobs that will sag, and what if she’s not fit to be a good mom? What if she doesn’t feel anything when she sees her newborn?


Duncan MacMillan’s Lungs mirrors the modern milieu: anxieties of having a kid, marrying, finding stable jobs, and raising a family, all set to a background of climate change, war, politics, and unstable economies.

Performing for the first time on the live theater stage, Mr. Cuenca did justice to the role of M, a musician and a man who’s seemingly very ready to have kids. M starts the conversation of wanting a child. M tells W “we’re not going to overthink this. We’re doing this.”

W has bigger anxieties and is surprised by her partner’s proposal.

Like Mr. Cuenca, it’s also Ms. Jose’s first time to do a straight play, and she has absorbed her character as if she really was W: a PhD student, neurotic, in love with her man, but unready and scared of starting her own family.

The strength of the play rests on its perfect balance of simplicity and complexity.

The production was designed to be bare: without props and costume change, and only a lighted cube that served as the characters’ stage. Jodinand Aguillon did the set and costume design. To help move the narrative, the lights are turned on and off, signalling the changes in time as the story runs from the the time the couple is in their 20s until they grow old.

Director Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan and assistant director Caisa Borromeo had to play with the powerful lines. The entire production has little blocking, no props, no background music, and no costume and makeup changes — everything relies on the execution of the couple’s conversation.

While bare when it comes to props, the play is bold in lines. Lungs is like being invited — sometimes to the point of being voyeurs — into a lover’s intimate conversation. The audience became the fly on the wall: lurking, listening, and relating to what’s happening on stage. The couple’s sex need not be portrayed, but there’s chemistry present between M and W and the actors who played them.

M and W is just like any one of us who are pressured to have everything figured out (what jobs to have, which a partner to wed, and a family to plan).

Lungs reflects reality and encourages reflection — when everything becomes a blur, we’re reminded to stop for a while, breathe, relax, and not overthink things.

Tickets are available at TicketWorld (

READ: Lungs is a breath of fresh air amidst the jukebox musicals