CAST’s latest tackles an extreme situation that limits connections. Sound’s familiar?
DURING the lockdown last year, actor/director Nelsito Gomez was looking for stories about communication and connection; a story that, he said, is “an encouraging response to our reality of being forced to distance ourselves physically from our loved ones.”
When Mr. Gomez read Sam Steiner’s Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, he thought: “‘Two people thrown into an extreme situation that prevents them from connecting to one another? Sounds familiar!’”
The Company of Actors in Streamlined Theater (CAST) PH will stream a production of Sam Steiner’s Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons at ticket2me.net on July 17, 24, and 31 (7 p.m.).
In the story’s dystopian society, the British government introduces the “Quietude Bill” which mandates every citizen’s speech be limited to 140 words a day. Bernadette (played by Gabby Padilla) and Oliver (Mr. Gomez) strive to handle their relationship under this rule. In a world where anyone can express anything, how effective would it be to communicate effectively by saying less?
Because of the limitations forced on theater groups by the COVID-19 pandemic, CAST PH — which specializes in staged readings (stripped down productions where the cast reads from scripts) — moves into the digital medium and streamlines experience into a theater and film hybrid. The production is done in collaboration with Stages Sessions and Menez Media, with Miguel Jimenez as executive producer and Benjamin Jimenez.
In this production, the two actors will interact in a split screen setup.
“We’re in a black box of sorts, with a carpet as our ‘playing’ area, and two actors ready to share a story, but with cameras thrown into the mix,” Mr. Gomez, who is also co-director of the play, told BusinessWorld in an e-mail.
Instead of regular face-to-face rehearsals, most of the production’s preparation was conducted virtually before meeting to shoot the play on set.
“Most of the work was done on Zoom — it’s the first time I’ve ever rehearsed for a show (and a two-hander at that) online. It had its limitations, but I think because of the nature of Lemons and how minimalistic Nel’s approach was in terms of blocking and stage design, it wasn’t too difficult when we finally transitioned to a physical set,” Ms. Padilla said of the new experience.
“…Especially for a story like Lemons where it’s about a couple figuring out how to manage their relationship through abnormal circumstances, it was a challenge for Gabby and I to develop chemistry on Zoom,” Mr. Gomez said. “But when we finally saw each other in person, it was like being freed from some cyber prison, and we could finally sync our performances and connect in a way that the play calls for.”
With a story that tackles the value of free speech, the lead actors hope that audience realizes the power of communication and silence.
“Being heard and being able to speak up is both a privilege and a responsibility. There is power in words and even silence can be political,” Ms. Padilla said.
For Mr. Gomez, words carry power and responsibility.
“A simple, ‘Hi’ can be very powerful if said at the right moment. Especially in this day, and age of cancel culture and information fatigue, I hope this story makes people re-evaluate how they use their words, whether digital or in person, and choose to use them for good, or for the better,” he said.
After Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, CAST PH plans to continue telling stories and exploring various techniques to do so.
“The goal obviously is to continue this with different material, experiment with other visual ideas, and open this to many other artists who want to create with us,” Mr. Gomez said.
“It’s hard. I’ll be honest,” he admitted. “But the mantra that got us through all the challenges of Lemons was, ‘We’ll get by with a little faith and imagination.’ And we did! And we hope to keep going.”
Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons streams on July 17, 24, and 31, 7 p.m., at ticket2me.net. Tickets are priced at P200; at https://ticket2me.net/e/33401. For more information about the production, visit www.facebook.com/castphils — Michelle Anne P. Soliman