There is no doubt that Tanghalang Pilipino’s Ang Pag-uusig, the Filipino adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, is a must-watch.
The faithful translation of Jerry Respeto, the beautiful staging with minimal set design, the amazing direction by Dennis Marasigan, and the stellar ensemble performance of the actors – they all were woven intricately to bring to life the witch hunt in Salem Massachusetts that happened from February 1692 to May 1963.
It is no wonder the play brought home six major awards from the 10th Gawad Buhay, including the Outstanding Play for Tanghalang Pilipino, Outstanding Stage Direction for Marasigan, Outstanding Translation/Adaptation for Respeto, and had successful staging in 2017 and 2018.
But did the audience take away something from watching it? I hope so. I do so.
I admit that I have never seen the two previous runs. I’ve been told that each staging, including the current, have different feels. The staging in 2017 and 2018 consumed the political climate at that time, characterized by extrajudicial killings, violations of human rights, impunity, and what have you.
Jude, a media friend who watched it during those times, felt the tension; it was so palpable that one could probably touch it if he put his mind to it. He even felt scared for the theater company because it was the time when those who opposed the power that be were condoned and persecuted.
With a powerful, political-laden play like The Crucible, with “the McCarthy communist witch hunt” becoming an allegory of the previous government’s massive “red-tagging,” I could understand the fear. But someone has to do it, and do it with a sound so loud that everyone who dared to listen won’t be able to ignore, and coupled with cries so silent, they are deafening.
With a new set of actors (except for the four senior actors Marco Viaña, Jonathan Tadioan, Lhorvie Nuevo, and Antonette Go taking the lead roles) and a new venue, it feels like a different production, and yet the same. Still a heavy drama, but with the current political and social climate, it has a distinct flavor.
Watching it, one word came to my mind: kuyog or swarming. Or in contemporary settings, it could as well mean trolling. And we saw a lot of that happening, especially on social media. How easily one can provoke arguments and emotional reactions in the cyber community with lies, and how a community who believes in those lies can swarm and instigate conflict and hostility.
With the hysterics and drama, the truth got buried under the rug. And that happens a lot in real life – how a false accusation could blow out of proportion, with implausible consequences.
I did feel the most gigil when Abigail Williams (portrayed by Go) lied through her teeth when Mary Warren (played by Aggy Mago) tried to tell the truth. A scene worth noting, I hope you don’t miss it when you watch it. I have to give it to the cast. They brought a myriad of emotions and thoughts out with their amazing acting.
I implore you. Do watch Ang Pag-uusig if you can. It is a classic tale, but it still resonates in today’s contemporary society.
Ang Pag-uusig runs until March 12, at the recently opened Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez (CCP Blackbox Theater). For tickets, reservations and show-buying inquiries, email [email protected], call 09479709618 or 09276035913 or go to www.ticket2me.net