BWW Review: KATSURI Tells the Plight of Landless Filipino Farmers Too Often Overlooked
Katsuri is an ingenious portrayal of the social ills that everyone is familiar with but never really acted upon.
Manila, Philippines - The simplicity of the storyline and the heartbreaking end make Katsuri, a Filipinized version of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, a must-see theatrical production. Adapted by Bibeth Orteza and directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna, the play is a portrayal of the harsh social realities most of us would commit to fantasy and denial because of their macabre and controversial origins.
Just like in Steinbeck's original story, Katsuri explores different values attributed to men whose dignity is the last remaining jewel behind his otherwise ragged clothes. Their struggles, reminiscent of the ordinary adventures in the countrysides of the Philippines, make one wonder how hard life is for the destitute and the struggling. The play sings the truth and what makes it more devastating is how the words, actions, and even the music are perfectly crafted and synchronized to ensure a total immersion for the audience.
The storytelling is effective in ensuring that the audience would understand the overarching theme and develop a special relationship with the actors who play the characters in a very natural way. Have you ever noticed that Steinbeck's story took place during the Depression? Yet, Katsuri takes place at the present? It only shows that the social ills tackled in the play never really left the society - it became a wheel or a tide that never left us.
What makes Katsuri compelling is how melancholic the plot is. It is a form of immersion into the real stories of our Filipino farmers and though it does give a message of how depressing their lives are, it also inspires us to be one with our farmers and help them in their toils. The mere fact that we have come to understand their lives, hopes, and disappointments is already a way of honoring their existence.
Due to a fast-paced society, we easily tend to forget the small and simple lives of people who build our society: the farmers, the working class. Through this simple webbed story of two men, best friends George (Marco Viana) and Toto (Jonathan Tadioan), we are allowed to look into their lives, whose familiar troubles and day-to-day survival are common stories in the newspapers that we simply ignore now and then.
This is not your ordinary play - it will haunt you and for a good reason. It enlightens and widens your awareness of the issues regarded as ancient but still fresh and prominent in the present social setting. It may give you frills and a sense of guilt as you know very well how rampant these stories happen but then again, we choose to be silent and ignorant on our landless farmers' plight. What we have here is a tale written with blood - a martyr's blood so that we can all see and grasp the perplexity of fate.
The ensemble of actors equally conveys the message clear and with the utmost force. The way the lines that are thrown are not rudimentary, albeit skillfully to mimic what is entirely natural in the chosen setting. The music is likewise tied in near perfection. However, the absence of music in some scenes makes it more haunting and traumatic.
This production, staged by Tanghalang Pilipino, will certainly give you the thrill one would surely seek in a play. This adaptation is faithful to Steinbeck's masterpiece and what makes this one not just an ordinary copy is the fact that all scenes and the main plot are so close to the Filipino audiences' heart.
Katsuri is an ingenious portrayal of the social ills that everyone is familiar with but never really acted upon - hence, their continuous proliferation.
BUY TICKETS via Ticket2Me: Tanghalang Pilipino's Katsuri, an adaptation of John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men, plays the Tanghalang Huseng Batute, Cultural Center of the Philippines, now until 27 October 2019.
Photos: Oliver Oliveros