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Lungs is a breath of fresh air amidst the jukebox musicals

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JAKE CUENCA (L) and Sab Jose perform a scene from Lungs. — NICKKY FAUSTINE P. DE GUZMAN

AFTER HAVING produced the successful musical, Eto na! Musikal nAPO!, 9 Works Theatrical is teaming up with Sandbox Collective for its next production, which is the total opposite of its jukebox musical: a straight play without props, costume changes, scene transitions, and intermission, and with only two actors on stage.

Lungs is a quiet but strong piece written by British playwright Duncan Macmillan. An Olivier Award-nominated writer and director, Macmillan is best known for the stage adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. He also wrote Every Brilliant Thing, and People, Places, and Things.

Sandbox Collective’s managing artistic director Toff de Venecia said he chose Lungs “because of the quality of its text.” He learned of MacMillan, “a little known playwright,” he said, when he was scouting for stories to stage next.

Originally produced in 2011, Lungs is a timely tale of two lovers, M and W, who are trying to conceive a baby amidst a world that is crumbling, no thanks to climate change. Is it worth it to have a child in this day and age?

The straight play runs for 90 minutes with non-stop dialogue between M and W.

M is patient and a musician while M is neurotic, intelligent, and a PhD candidate. The couple has been together for six years when they start their dialogue, and their exchanges will last until they are in their 70s. Lungs will traverse through time.

“Macmillan said outright that the play is to be really simple. So the challenge is to find ways to convey the story without being dependent on the usual devices we normally use, but [focusing on] the characters themselves. Text is really the heart of the show,” said director Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan at a press conference at Privato Hotel on Aug. 8.

The director said the production will include some Filipino language and Pinoy references.

Performing for the first time on stage, TV personality Jake Cuenca will play as M, while W will be played by Sab Jose, who will be performing in a straight play for the first time. She is currently working in the musical, Eto na! Musikal nAPO!

While this is the first time that both leads will be performing in a straight play in the Philippines, they are not newbies. The two have studied theater abroad — he at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, while she at the Guildford School of Acting in England — and the two exchanged notes on how to deal with their characters and chemistry.

“We may have different backgrounds, but we talk about the techniques and the methods we studied from our schools. It helps with our character work,” Ms. Jose said.

Lungs may be fiction but it captures perfectly the anxieties of our society and the pressures of “adulting,” said Ms. Jose.

“I used to think that I wanted to have a baby at 25 and now that I’m 30, I’m like ‘Oh wait! pressure.’ I don’t want to say that most women hinge their worth on motherhood, but that’s what happens, motherhood defines you. I will get there, but for now I am embracing my womanhood through my career,” she said.

Lungs, besides highlighting relationships, parenthood, responsibilities, and anxiety, takes its shape against a background of climate change.

“The takeaway of the story is that sometimes we tend to forget about our environment that we walked on. The characters, on the other hand, are hyper-aware that everything must be politically correct. It teaches us to balance and don’t make those things deterrents to how we live. When you let things bog you down, you tend to forget to just breathe,” said Mr. Pamintuan.

Lungs will have performances at the Power MAC Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati from Sept. 22 to Oct. 7. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman





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