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BWW Reviews: HARING UBU, A Filipino Adaptation of 'Ubu Roi'

Gabo Tolentino plays Tata Ubu. (Photo: Erickson Dela Cruz)

Manila, Philippines--Dulaang UP, together with UP Dulaang Laboratoryo, brings to the stage HARING UBU, a Filipino adaptation of French symbolist writer Alfred Jarry's "Ubu Roi," a precursor to the Theater of the Absurd and surrealism, at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, University of the Philippines (UP).

Written by Allan Palileo, based on the English translation by Cyril Connolly and Simon Watson Taylor, HARING UBU, directed by Joey Ting, features senior theater arts students Rence Aviles, Rose Camacho, Alice Gonzales, and Gabo Tolentino.

The play tells the story of revolutionary Tata Ubu, who kills the King and most of the members of the royal family. The Queen then dies, prompting the ghost of the King to get revenge. Meanwhile, Ubu kills more people and takes money from them. Ubu's henchman Heneral Eb'ak, on the other hand, is thrown into jail; but he escapes and persuades the former emperor's cousin Haring Magiting to wage war against the rebel leader.

Among its four actors, Tolentino, who plays the role of Tata Ubu, as well as three other roles--Kara, Kruz, and Heneral--is most outstanding. He delivers a competent performance from start to finish. He also possesses an incredible stage presence and the rare total package.

Aviles shows his versatility by playing multiple roles: Heneral Eb'ak, Taga-ilog, Haring Magdiwang, Berdugo, Haring Magiting, Escodero, Sundalo, and Krus. His voice seamlessly adopts different tones from one character to another. His Haring Magiting and Heneral Eb'ak are a delightful treat for the audience.

Camacho, who plays the ghost of the Queen, stands out with her humorous surprise number "Let It Go," the signature song, sung by the Snow Queen, from the Academy Award-winning animated film "Frozen."

Unfortunately, Gonzales, who plays the role of manipulative wife of Tata Ubu, Nana Ubu, and Kara, delivers a lackluster performance. Her small facial expressions and body movements fail to match up with Tolentino's electrifying stage presence.

Ohm David, on the production side of things, creates functional minimalist sets that are ingenious enough to cover a limited production budget. Meliton Roxas' lighting design perfectly complements that of David's production design. Roxas' lighting cues effectively trigger the action and drama on stage.

Finally, Ting encourages his actors to break the fourth wall, which is thorough, funny, and engaging. His directing style is not restrictive; it's freewheeling, which I'm told has allowed the actors to purposely collaborate with him as they put on the show.

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