|Juego de Peligro's Final Curtain Call|
Adapted by Elmer Gatchalian from the novel Les Liaisons Dangeureses by French author Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Juego de Peligro brought to the fore Manila based Spaniards Señora Margarita (Centenera-Buencamino) and Señor Vicente’s (Reyes) lust for conquest as their motherland loses her grip on her colonies towards the end of the 19th century. As always, those beneath them, the mestizos and especially the indios, suffer as pawns in the pair’s deadly game of seduction, deceit and betrayal. The pair’s victims are the religious Señora Teresa, alternately portrayed by theater newbies LJ Reyes and Valerie Concepcion, the naïve teenager Cecilia played by Adrienne Vergara, and the love struck indio Daniel essayed by Lharby Policarpio and Vin Abrenica alternately.
As the sharp tongued Vicente,
exuded the sexiness and charm that showed no doubt how easily it was for women to
fall madly in love with him. I could only imagine how exhausting this role must
be for him since he was in a lot of the scenes, even consecutive ones. Most
plays would have the next scene feature a different set of characters but in Arnold’s
case, he would exit the stage, have a quick change (or just remove some
clothing) and then enter from another point for the next scene.
Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino’s Margarita, the grand schemer of it all entangling everyone, even Vicente, in her elaborate web, showed that she is not a woman to be messed with. I particularly loved the scene towards the end of the play when Margarita dresses up to what she considers to be her victory party only to realize that she’d been blindsided. And when she tore away pieces of her clothing in disarray at the final scene, it was a stark contrast to the opening scene where she was being helped into her clothes by a servant and makes her grand entrance with a triumphant air. I think that this was a subtle yet very effective way by director Tuxqs Rutaquio to bookend the play.
Adrienne Vergara, known mostly for her offbeat and quirky roles, was delightful as the initially innocent Cecilia who was transformed into a liberated woman through the machinations of both Vicente and Margarita. I now find it hard to imagine any other actress with enough range and guts to portray this memorable and daring role. And I have to take note (pardon the pun) on how difficult it is to sing deliberately off key.
LJ Reyes and Valerie Concepcion (a late addition to the cast) were both notable in their theater stage debut as Señora Teresa. They both gave gravity to the role that made their character’s fate more tragic. Her line at the end of act one wherein she declared to her aunt Señora Remedios (Sherry Lara) that the Lord knows how she fought her feelings towards Vicente really got through me although I haven’t found myself placed in her predicament. Saddled with almost forgettable roles and performances on television, LJ Reyes and Valerie Concepcion’s respective performances as Señora Teresa
Daniel, portrayed alternately by Lharby Policarpio and Vin Abrenica, is the hapless guy who was relegated as a pawn and Margarita’s boy toy. Lharby’s previous theater experience made for a stronger presence on stage compared to Abrenica, also making his stage debut, who tended to mumble his lines. But credit is due to both actors as they learned how to play a few bars on the piano as Cecilia’s music teacher.
The text of the play by Elmer Gatchalian deftly displayed the social/economic classes and the disparity among them through the use of the language. I couldn’t say how authentic the use of language in Juego de Peligro but I do trust dramaturg Giselle Garcia to know what she is doing. Transferring the setting from 18th century
to 19th century Manila
specifically Intramuros, made it easier for me to get into the groove of things
since I still do know my Philippine history. But there were times when I couldn’t
help but wince when some of the lines turned didactic like when Senora Remedios
lectured Teresa about the difference between a man and a woman’s love or when
Margarita made a scathing remark about the Americans as the worst kind of conquerors.
Tanghalang Pilipino’s 28th season, dubbed as DIS/EASE that included productions such as Kleptomaniacs, Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente, Prinsipe Munti, Melanie and Juego de Peligro, had a bumpy road. The production line up changed several times during the course of the season leaving some people confused as to where the season was heading. But with Juego de Peligro, the company wraps up the season on a high note and carrying over an excitement on what the 29th season has to offer.