VLF 2020: the boundlessness of a couple’s relationship

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PALANCA award winner and filmmaker Dustin Celestino and director Roobak Valle reunite for their second collaboration in VLF 2020 KAPIT: Lab in the Time of Covid (A Virtual Labfest Lockdown Edition).

Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Virgin Labfest, the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ festival of new, unstaged one-act plays, is going online this year, with live streamed performances and readings, among others.

Celestino and Valle’s Doggy follows an engaged couple where the woman’s sexual peculiarity becomes the source of man’s repressed anger.

In the story, the playwright presents the escalating arguments between the partners throughout their relationship.

“They learn new things about each other during their engagement party,” Mr. Celestino told BusinessWorld in a Zoom interview on May 18. At the party, the couple and the other guests play “Never Have I Ever,” a game where participants take turns saying something that they have never done (e.g. “Never have I ever been arrested”). But if it is true for other participants, they either (depending on the game variation) take a shot of liquor or put down a finger which means that they lose a “life.”

“Because of that game, the guy will learn many things about the girl, [which] he didn’t know before,” Mr. Celestino said.

The couple in the story, Mr. Celestino noted, have been together for about five years prior to getting engaged. “By that time, you’re assuming that you know everything about your partner. When you learn something new, you feel betrayed to some extent,” he said.

The fictional couple will be played by real-life couple Che Ramos Cosio and Chrome Cosio.

Since this year’s festival has been adapted for a digital platform, director Roobak Valle will explore different camera angles for the play.

“I [had] blocked the whole play in one angle. Then I was told that we can experiment from different angles,” Mr. Valle said. The production team has also minimized the use of music for the opening and closing.

The story also touches on feminism, gender, consent, the value of intimacy in relationships, and the basic idea of monogamy.

“For [some] people, the primary function of a marriage is sexual exclusivity,” said Mr. Celestino. “May mga taong iniisip na, if that is the primary rule, tapos hindi ako masaya sa sex namin, is that enough reason to end the relationship (There are people who think that, if that is the primary rule, and one is not happy with their sex life, is that enough reason to end the relationship?)”

A key component in the story is the fight between the couple prior to the wedding. “The fight [in the play] happens one week before the wedding,” Mr. Valle said, adding that it will lead the audience to wonder as they watch whether the wedding pushes through or not.

The production is also currently working to invite a psychologist specializing in couples therapy for a possible debriefing after the show, to discuss on how couples can deal with arguments.

Ang lalim ng pinaghuhugutan ng debate ng mag-asawa, so we need an authority [on the matter] to discuss about it,” Mr. Valle said. (Because of the depth of the source of a couple’s argument, we need an authority to discuss it.)

Malalim ang mga relationships (Relationships are deep). There are so many nuances that could make and break a relationship and one of the hardest things to do is to maintain a relationship,” Mr. Celestino said. He stated that after the show, “Maraming mapag-uusapan yung mga couples na manonood (The couples who watch will have a lot to talk about).”

Doggy will stream live on June 10, 3 p.m., and June 26, 2 p.m.

Aside from the revisited plays and staged readings, viewers can also catch the VLF Playwright’s Fair online with this year’s playwrights talking about their work on June 11-14, 17-20, 25-27 at 8 p.m. Meanwhile, the Virgin Labfest 2020 Writing Fellowship Program will culminate in an online staged reading of the fellows’ works on June 28 at 2 and 5 p.m.

For more details and show schedules, visit https://www.facebook.com/culturalcenterofthephilippines/ and https://www.facebook.com/thevirginlabfest/.Michelle Anne P. Soliman