BWW Reviews: GAMES PEOPLE PLAY by Glenn Mas
Manila, Philippines--Seldom do you see a play mounted on an almost bare stage, but delivers big impact to its audience--that's what GAMES PEOPLE PLAY does, written by Glenn Sevilla Mas, a Ford Foundation International fellow who earned his MFA in Playwriting from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.
Director and set designer Ed Lacson Jr.'s production design, which features childlike design elements: cut out cardboard church, forest trees, and castle, clearly represent each main character, childhood friends Luna, Diego, and Julio, respectively.
According to Mas, the children's games featured in the play are the ones he used to play as a kid such as taguan (hide and seek), bahay bahayan (imaginary family game), holen (marble hit game) and pitik bulag (blind game). In the storytelling, these games create interesting back stories of the characters as they revisit their childhood memories, especially those they used to play with one another. Each game is a rite of passage to adulthood.
Thea Yrastorza is Luna, a virtuous girl who becomes a nun; Kalil Almonte is Diego, a confused, fatherless boy who becomes even more confused as an adult; and Abner Delina is Julio, an effeminate boy who becomes an unhappy gay man. These actors also play multiple roles and are able to hold their audience with their intense performances; and with the subtlety they bring to their characters. They also play out the sensitive parts of the play in a tasteful manner.
The actors eloquently speak intermittent Hiligaynon, which I personally would want less of it. Too many lines in Hiligaynon--although endearing and funny at times--could turn off the audience who do not have a good grasp of the language.
Despite working on a limited space at the Fine Arts Black Theatre, the interaction among the characters is smooth. The only thing that is bothersome is the light's fading in and out. Although the play is set in a children's playground, it tackles a serious theme in need of a careful handling, especially when transitioning from one scene to the next. Teresa Barrozo's original sound and music ably supports the progression of the story.
Lacson, on the other hand, succeeds in exploring the "spaces" for each character with his effective blocking of the scenes. Mas' script, which he wrote in the winter of 2005, connects with the audience because of its universal messages. It allows the audience to reflect, and perhaps celebrate humanity. The play has a sad ending; but it still gives a sense of epiphany that life is a continuous journey that need not be rationalized.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY is a 2007 Palanca Award-winning play, inspired by a quote by child psychologist-writer Bruno Bettleheim: "The monster a child knows best and is most concerned with [is] the monster he feels or fears himself to be."