THERE are times when the sun is buried in the horizon, and the moon reigns in the sky.

Tatarin: A Witch’s Sabbath in Three Acts, an adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s classic and highly-acclaimed play, is Teatro Tomasino’s 25th anniversary feature presentation. Performed at PhilamLife Auditorium last Nov. 27 and 28, the play was directed by Katherine Peñaojas.

The story tells of the clash between women and men, superstition and modernity, tradition and liberation. It revolves around the household of Lupe (Rowena Cantuba) and Paeng Moreta (Ed Salva), and presents how the structure of their life is momentarily stirred by the rituals of the Tadtarin cult. The carnivalesque nature of the society during the three-day celebration, when the women possess the power and spirit of nature and men are reduced to insignificant creatures, reinforces the place of women in the order of sexes, co-equal with men.

The play is loaded with heavy dialogues on gender discrimination, ethnicity, and nationality to the point of exhausting and blatantly attacking the issues from all angles.

Act One provides the tension between Paeng and Micaela (Weena Alvaran), a divorcee who acquires the western liberal ideas. Paeng’s machismo is highly emphasized with the way he relates with his wife and with Micaela.

Act Two gives a contrast between Guido (Allan Noel), a young man fresh from Europe who adores women and sympathizes with the romantic traditions of Filipinos like the Tadtarin celebration, and Paeng, who is inconsiderate and feels superior over women, especially his wife.

The last act shows the celebration of the Tadtarin cult and the eventual triumph of women over men, as symbolized by Paeng’s kissing of Lupe’s feet. But no one really knows for how long the ecstatic moment will last.

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The plot, dulled by lengthy conversations, entails an immense amount of sustaining power from the actors. However, the actors didn’t do much to lessen the audience’s burden of concentration. There is no depth in the portrayal of the actors and they have a problem with proper voice projection. Cantuba was monotonous in all her dialogues, with several forced laughters. The “Americanized” Alvaran is so self-conscious and appears so awkward in her role.

On the other hand, Salva’s acting manages to rise above the long boring talks while Janice Medina (Rosa) and Sarah Joy Mayo (Kikay), playing the maids of the Moreta family, steal the scene from the lead characters with their natural humor. But it gets irritating when they start to overact and stutter. Moreover, Juanito (Carlos Buendia), one of the Moreta sons, proves a lot of potential for theater acting.

The highlight of the play is the final celebration of the Tadtarin cult where the women are supposed to be possessed by a supernatural force that will drive them to almost inhuman grace and beastly moans. The performance was quite effective but not satisfactory. There is an obvious restraint and reservation in their acting that they fail to capture the trance-like expression as described in the play.

Meanwhile, the set design, a façade of a house beside a lone trunk of a tree, was creatively and realistically mounted on the stage. This is complemented by the believable day and night lighting effects. The ethnic background music for the Tadtarin cult celebration was also apt for the scene.

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Teatro Tomasino’s adaptation of a classic play onstage is a good step for improving the theater scene in the University. But, it still has a lot to work on to legitimize its claim of 25 years of excellent theatrical tradition.

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