By FATIMA B. BADURIA & RAMON CHRISTIAN G. PLACIDO
A COMMON enemy threatens the globe that preys on mankind. It is transmitted through physical contact, thus restricting close proximity. However, the virus proves to be more powerful than anticipated. Seemingly, masks, face shields, and disinfectants cannot obstruct its more profound contamination in society. Without prior notice, it creeps into the core of humanity and people’s principles.
This notion is portrayed in COVID 19 Virologues, a set of nineteen monologues written by the Artistang Artlets alumni and directed by Bong Figueroa. Each monologue revolves around the societal equivalents of COVID-19 that deprave the ethics of humankind. The play was held via Zoom from Oct.31 to Nov. 1 and was live-streamed on Artistang Artlets Lab’s Facebook page.
From the beginning, the play ingeniously conceptualized and humanized COVID-19 as a central figure and complex antihero. The varying dispositions, status, and sentiments of each figure present distinct facets of the virus. The many aspects of the pandemic are made clearer through the four divisions of the monologues: Pagpapakilala, Pagpapaalala, Paghahasik, and Paglalagablab.
Each performance of the actors is remarkable as it juxtaposed the different individuals they portray. One that particularly stands out is Nikko Delos Santos’ eerie turn in the piece Kanino Dapat ang Korona?
The act presents the abrupt transmission of the virus through multiple personalities contending over the possession of one body. Thus, it mirrors the current complex power struggle between the virus and humanity. Moreover, the actor was able to exquisitely personify the various individuals through his poignant facial expressions, dynamic voice modulation, and powerful delivery.
Kadiri is easily one of the iconic acts from the play as the monologue effectively presents the virus as exceedingly filthy. Likewise, it successfully evokes revulsion through the brilliant use of costumes and props. The act becomes more complex and powerful as the feeling of disgust is redirected towards people who exceed the virus’s uncleanliness through selfish acts. The performance was further refined by the outstanding execution of the actor.
Likewise, The Supplicant strikes with its well-written and excellently delivered lines. It begins with COVID-19 confessing his sins yet eventually realizing that he is completely unrepentant as he tries to justify his misdeeds. The build-up and shift from the contrasting outlooks transpire through the remarkable structure of the monologue and the skillful execution.
However, some monologues echo previous acts, bordering on being repetitive. For instance, Akala reflects numerous themes including the minuscule beginning of the virus and its harrowing impacts in different aspects of living.
The difference, though, is its more direct conveyance, resulting in its failure to elicit emotions from the audience. This leaves the monologue coming off as less nuanced compared to the play’s other segments.
A similar instance is found in Pasaway, which carries traces of Salot in its expression of anger towards humanity and remaining unapologetic as the cause of their death. Nevertheless, both acts serve as bearers of emphasis for the significant message.
Another drawback in the play is the inaudible sound caused by faulty internet connection. There was even an instance when an interjection can be heard from both the character and the narrator, thereby confusing the viewers.
In spite of these issues, the play effectively used a digital platform as it featured a superbly crafted and appropriate background for each character. It consistently highlights the theme of the characters as it brings connection with their lines on the screen. The costumes and props used in the play also added more detail that symbolizes the societal virus that menaces the world.
Overall, COVID 19 Virologues is successful in its theatrical portrayal of current events despite the confines of a digital stage. It proves that the flair of theater cannot be extinguished by the pandemic. As a result, they were able to voice their vital and alarming message; the virus can infect and further impair humanity.
Nonetheless, hope lives on—it is this hope that preludes life without the horrors of the pandemic. F