By Sara Jamel Bangayan
Opening the 38th season of Dulaang UP’s series of plays is like reliving a childhood tale we got to learn and love, but with a twist.
This year, DUP featured the mythical story of Adarna, adapted from the classic corrido. Adapted by Vlad Gonzales, Adarna takes on a different style of presenting a story that is very familiar to Filipinos. This, combined with Jose Estrella’s direction, makes Ibong Adarna more interesting beyond being a required reading in high school.
Divided into two chapters, Adarna started with the introduction of the royalty in the kingdom of Berbania led by Don Fernando (Greg De Leon) and his wife, Donya Valeriana (Ronah Rostata). They had three sons: Don Pedro (Vincent Pajara), Don Diego (Stephen Viñas) and Don Juan (JC Santos). Don Fernando acquired a serious illness curable only by the song of the mythical bird, the adarna.
The story clings to the original plot: the princes’ pursuit of the adarna, Don Juan’s capture of the bird and his brothers’ betrayals, his adventures and relationships with Donya Juana (Mirriam Reyes) and Donya Leonora (Maxine Ignacio) inside the well, his journey to Reyno de los Cristales and his successes as he overcame King Salermo’s (Earle Figuracion) seven challenges to win Donya Maria Blanca’s (Charlene Magalit) love.
So, what distinguishes the play from the corrido?
The plot may be the same, but the difference lies in the dialogues and characterization. The select use of modern Filipino, coupled with the olden mother tongue, made the contextualization of scenes easier.
What made Adarna more remarkable was its use of shadow animation, which made the play more fun to watch.
The stage design is simple but unique. The props and the backdrop appeared like cut-outs from seemingly giant intermediate pads, which made it more reminiscent of high school life. The dimmed colors projected by the lights made the scenes more dramatic. The accompanying music, however, provided the comedic tone onstage.
Gonzales’ choice of using a singing ensemble as narrators – instead of one person – made the role more interesting. This strayed away from the usual monotony that narrators create when telling a story, and fulfilled the purpose of the corrido.
Kung sakaling may mga tauhan at karanasang magmumukhang pamilyar, mga paalala na magbubukas ng inyong mga sariling sakit at sugat, ayos lang iyan, kakayanin ninyo iyan. Hindi ba, sa kaso ng Adarna, kaya ka nasusugatan ay para manatili kang gising?
This was the playwright’s closing in Adarna’s souvenir program.
He related pain and suffering of Don Juan to the hardships experienced by the audience in their respective lives, and even recounted the problems he stumbled upon constructing the play’s narrative, such as choosing the real protagonist among the swarm of characters.
He also said that they would be able to overcome the challenges they needed to face, just like Don Juan.
The intention of the play can be seen throughout: it aimed to evoke laughter and humor, even though the story was full of conflicts. Nevertheless, the message that the story had, which centred on never giving up, was carried out well.
The combination of the song-like but humorous script and the actors’ well-trained voices and fluid movements made the story of Ibong Adarna more entertaining and fun to learn. A typical story where love conquers all – even the impossible, Adarna gives a good kick off for Dulaang UP’s new season.
DUP is the official theatre organization of the University of the Philippines, established by veteran actor and director Antonio “Tony” Mabesa in 1979. It produces a series of plays per season. Students of the Theatre program of College of Arts and Letters usually compose the onstage and backstage crew, together with veterans in the field.