WRITING drama is not easy especially when it attempts to find humor in misery in the same length of time it takes one to digest this review.

After “fast food fiction” comes 10x10x10 (UST Publishing House, 2005), a collection of ten short plays by ten local playwrights which explores the modern Filipino consciousness in no longer than ten minutes.

The volume compiles the works of Writer’s Bloc, a group composed of young playwrights.

The pieces in 10x10x10 break away from old stage conventions, presenting fresh insights and irony into the lives of ordinary Pinoys in the metropolis.

In Ned Trespeces’ “Trabaho Soliloquies,” four young, desperate jobseekers whose motives stem from financial desperation, need for sex and drugs, and independence fight their inner monsters tooth and claw to get past the human resource department. Trespeces, who himself jumped from one job to another, shows how the characters’ frustration can drive them to put on different faces for the sake of establishing “happier” lives by worming into the workforce¯ at all cost.

On the lighter but still poignant side, Alfonso Dacanay’s “Eyeball” plays around the youth’s newfound stubbornness as embodied in the popular phrase, “kung ayaw mo, wag mo.” It is the story of chubby and ordinary-looking Eileen and good-looking Patrick who meet in a café after chatting online for four months only to disappoint each other.

Most of the pieces are intense, and they heavily bear the markings of black comedy, or humor derived from irony and misery. But nothing quite prepares the reader for composer Vincent de Jesus’ “Over a Cup of Coffee,” a side-splitting piece which frisks with the classic story of a son admitting his homosexuality to his mother, minus the hysterics. The mother’s pained but cool acceptance exudes a new view on understanding, love, and communication.

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Another powerful piece is “Walang Iwanan” by Palanca Hall of Famer Rene Villanueva, a story of two people trapped in an illicit relationship; confronted with the decision of continuing or breaking their relationship after the man marries another woman who is pregnant with his child. The piece demonstrates the strength of the urban Filipina who remains dignified in the face of a catastrophic revelation.

The themes used in the pieces are universal¯love, friendship and survival¯but possessed more dimension which the flat storylines of mainstream screenplays lack. These are overlooked in-your-face stories that are seemingly too small to be developed into anything, until 10x10x10.

The pieces employ “Tag-lish,” which helps establish the nuances of the Filipino language. The 10-minute length of the plays sustains the interest of the reader (or the viewer) while preparing them for a sudden twist or a cliffhangermaking it an engrossing read.

A setback, however, is the much abused “swardspeak,” also known as gay lingo, in most of the plays, especially in Chris Martinez’ “Balang Araw,” a futuristic drama set in 3010 A.D., where every character, regardless of gender and role, “swardspeaks.”

Nonetheless, 10x10x10 shows us the richness and complexities of Filipino urban culture. It also enables readers to realize new facets of urban Filipino youth, their concerns, their strengths, and soul searching. Czeriza Shennille S. Valencia

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