Anonymous Theater opened its staging of Adam Szudrich’s selected works. Here is our review of In a Nutshell.
Theatre as an art form has always been beloved for one very simple reason: It is for all intents and purposes, a time machine. Not in the conventional sense where you get to skip backwards and forwards in time, but rather, it is able to preserve ideas and stories during the time and context of their creation. These stories can then be brought forward to the present to speak their truth to a whole new audience at every performance. It is not the same as film or television in that it does not freeze, and inevitably date, the material. It is live and alive: Branching out into the world as each performer and director brings their own experiences and choices into the roles they inhabit. This kind of character-driven performance is where theatre really shows its significance as a way for us to preserve and advance our culture related to concepts that resonate with us.
Loneliness, longing, love; pillars of the human condition are front and center in Anonymous Theater’s staging of “In A Nutshell: Adam Szudrich” at the PARC Foundation in San Juan. The showcase is comprised of six, ten-minute plays, with an intermission. The shortform plays share the same theme of the desire for, and pursuit of, various forms of love, but the tone wildly bounces from heavy melodrama, to witty comedy between pieces that thoroughly entertained the audience. Under the direction of J Villanueva, Best Director for 2017’s Short+Sweet Manila, the stripped-down production draws the audience in to focus on the performances of the cast.
In “Ten Minutes”, an impassioned monologue that tackles apathy served as a strong start to the show. Surrounded by the entire cast, silent and frozen, it is a scathing comment that even when the truth is in front of us, plain as day, we still choose to do nothing. “Jake’s Room” is a poignant portrait of a long-suffering mother in the middle of a guilt-fueled crisis over the impending return of a delinquent child. The most introspective of the six pieces, the silent moments create such deep tension. In “Two Psychics Meet on Tinder” the audience is treated to a clever and flirty recitative shared between two psychics finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences. The conceit of this piece lies in the fact that they have plotted out the years before them, with all the pitfalls and challenges, prior to meeting.
After a brief intermission, “Slow Dating” peels back the curtain, and gives us a glimpse into the mind of a sharp and practical older woman who is jumping into unfamiliar waters of creating a new life for herself with a mysterious and sensual lover in the ebb of a fast fading previous love. “Manstruating” is a frenetic exploration into the power dynamics in a relationship where the lines between genders hilariously blur into each other. Rounding off the afternoon is the joyful “One Night Stan”, which reminds one of Rashomon: offering up three perspectives to the same date from three gay men dating the same man. The finale is an uproarious piece that was cleverly written and staged, the differences in responses and expectations from the three actors who played opposite each other is a delectable morsel of theatre that should not be missed.
It is always a wonderful thing, the growth of local theatre companies that decide to bring new and exciting material closer to the communities they serve. It is a very encouraging sight to see, and gives one hope for the future of Philippine theatre. The inevitable rise of Anonymous Theater on the backs of the very talented people behind it is one to watch. I for one expect great things from them, and I have no doubt they will deliver.
Anonymous Theater’s “In A Nutshell: Adam Szudrich” has four more performances on February 22 and 23 (3pm and 7pm shows on each day) at the PARC Theater Black Box within the PARC Foundation Compound in 494 Lt. Artiaga, San Juan, Metro Manila. Tickets are at P350.00, for reservations, please contact 0917.538.5078.