TEATRO Tomasino, UST’s oldest theater guild, has opened its 31st season impressively with a Filipino translation of Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna.

De Vega, the greatest dramatist during the Spanish golden age in the 17th century, tells of an actual peasant revolt in a Castilian village named Fuente Ovejuna in the late 15th century. Commander Fernán Gómez de Guzmán of the Order of Calatrava is a terrible ruler who, despite being described as the man “with the red cross across his chest,” is hash and cruel.

Among the inhabitants, his ruthless breeds fear on the one hand and muted rebelliousness on the other. When his tyranny becomes extreme, the villagers overthrow and kill him.

When King Ferdinand II of Aragon sends a magistrate to investigate, the villagers refuse to divulge the names of those responsible for the commander’s death. Even under torture, all they can say is that “Fuente Ovejuna did it.”

Teatro Tomasino adviser Jose Victor Torres translated Ovejuna into Filipino while Dennis Marasigan, former artistic director of the Tanghalang Pilipino, directed the play.

While not without faults, the cast members evidently gave a lot into their performances. Notable were Mike Stephen Liwag as Commander Gómez de Guzmán, Djenaba Keiko de Castro as Laurencia, Aldwyn de Jesus as Mengo, and Avengel Joseph Federis as Frondoso.

Newcomer Liwag had stage presence, and was charismatic enough to rivet the audience. But he slurred his words especially during long chunks of paragraphs, which made it almost impossible to follow his character’s train of thought.

De Castro as Laurencia had what is probably the most heartrending moment in the play. Laurencia’s retelling of the horrors she experienced at the hands of her captors is an emotionally charged momment in the drama, but while de Castro was good during the first few moments, she botched it inevitably by turning melodramatic.

The keys that make music

De Jesus’ and Federis’ characters provided comic relief to an otherwise serious production. Federis as Frondoso stole the scene for most of the production, but he overdid it at times. De Jesus is a promising Teatro Tomasino apprentice. While he did not deliver punchlines with the same self-assurance as Federis, he had comic timing.

The stage design leaves a lot to be desired. The scenes in the palace lacked grandeur. Had it not been for a map of Spain and the royal thrones, the palace would not be distinguishable from the town square. Set changes weren’t always smooth; the stage hands forgot at one time to bring chairs out of the scene at one point, and the cast had to ignore their presence onstage when they set up the props.

Because the Filipino translation aimed to preserve the thought of the Spanish original, certain sentences sounded archaic and pompous to a modern-day audience. The production didn’t also make evident the relevance of De Vega’s play to a 21st century Filipino audience.

Perhaps conscious of this problem, it adopted a “play-within-a-play” structure; it made it appear that the actors are amateur thespians in the Philippines during World War II staging the Lope de Vega work. So is the staging of the play an act of resistance against the Japanese occupation? The parallelism is not very clear.

But over all, the production of a Lope de Vega classic was commendable. Marian Leanna T. De la Cruz


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.