'What price, unity?' Dulaang UP returns on-site with Floy Quintos' new play

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at Nov 17 2022 08:10 PM

Director Dexter Martinez Santos during rehearsal of DUP's new one-act play, Floy Quintos' The Reconciliation Dinner. Photo courtesy of Dexter Santos
Director Dexter Martinez Santos during rehearsal of DUP's new one-act play, Floy Quintos' The Reconciliation Dinner. Photo courtesy of Dexter Santos

MANILA -- When Dulaang UP staged playwright-director Floy Quintos’ last play “The Kundiman Party” in 2018, he called it his swan song. 

It tackles the proliferation of fake news, disinformation, the unabated power of social media influencers, the helplessness and eventual detachment of the upper-middle class. 

It was one of the most well-attended and reviewed plays so that the Philippine Educational Theater Association restaged it the following year. 

Then the COVID-19 pandemic took over and sent everyone cocooned at home. In one of those intermittent lockdowns, DUP decided to upload the video documentation of “The Kundiman Party,” among other recent plays. It’s still made available for free on DUP’s You Tube Channel and as of posting, the play has gathered 51,000 views. 

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When the theaters re-opened, the common question was: Will Quintos ever come out of semi-retirement and write a new play? 

He told ABS-CBN News that he has written his swan song so why bother. He explained there are a lot of things to do other than write a play that won’t change anything anyway. People will believe what they want to believe. No amount persuasion from any form of art, like theater, can convince the masses to side with the truth. 

Then the polarizing effect of the national elections has transformed family members, relatives and friends into strangers. “Unfriend,” “unfollow,” “restrict” and “block” have been the “action words” on social media.

So now, there’s “The Reconciliation Dinner,” the one-act play that sends everyone jumping in excitement. The great Floy Quintos is back!

“Diyos ko. Who do I think I am? Norma Desmond?” Quintos told ABS-CBN News, half-jokingly, in a recent online conversation. He’s referring to the great American actress who started during the silent film era and successfully thrived during the ascendancy of the talkies. 

Quintos said he’s been busy with directing concerts and shows, mostly online. 

Then again, his return to playwriting was because of his “The Kundiman Party” director and constant collaborator, Dexter Martinez Santos. 

During the height of the pandemic lockdowns, Santos continued teaching Theater Arts majors at UP Diliman. 

“When I was teaching online theater classes, I realized that all of my students haven’t experienced theater in person. Theater majors were graduating with no in-person theatrical experience. They haven’t even entered the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater. They don’t have any idea how it feels to be part of a Dulaang UP production,” Santos told ABS-CBN News. 

“For two years, I have been asking Sir Floy if he was willing to write an original play for Dulaang UP just in case live theatre would be back. An opportunity also for our theater majors to experience and witness the process we employ in our original Filipino works. 

“Luckily, he agreed and now we are opening ‘The Reconciliation Dinner’ with professional actors, designers, the theater faculty and our theater majors. Though not as many students are part of it because of safety protocols, I am just so pleased that they get to be finally part of Dulaang UP’s comeback to live theater,” Santos added.

The play is the opening production of Dulaang UP’s 45th Season dedicated to the memory of its founder, National Artist for Theater Antonio “Tony” Mabesa with the title "Balikwas.”

DUP, in a statement, said, “The Reconciliation Dinner” is a dark comedy about friends "trying to heal unspoken hurts, suspicions, disbelief about the choices of those they thought they knew well.”

The teaser goes: “In light of the 2022 elections, how well do we really know those we hold dear? And how far are we willing to go to overlook the choices they make?”

“During the height of the pandemic, I was blessed to have online projects. ‘The Reconciliation Dinner’ is my first in-person theater since the [height of the] COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the processes have been modified, I am just grateful that we get to mount a timely and relevant original Filipino work with my constant and new collaborators. People whom I trust and respect,” Santos told ABS-CBN News.

The actors are familiar names from previous Quintos-Santos plays. They are Nelsito Gomez playing a character named Ely, Hariette Mozelle as Mica, Phi Palmos as Norby, Randy Medel Villarama as Bert Medina, Jojo Cayabyab as Fred Valderama, Stella Cañete-Mendoza as Dina Medina and Frances Makil-Ignacio as Susan Valderama.

“All of the actors were pre-cast. Every role was written specifically for every actor in the play,” Santos added.

We asked him to give an objective observation of the new Quintos material. 

“Don’t want to spoil the plot,” Santos said, laughing. “We just can’t wait to share ‘The Reconciliation Dinner’ to the audience.”

He added, “All of my collaboration with Sir Floy for Dulaang UP employed proscenium staging. ‘The Reconciliation Dinner’ will be intimate.”

It runs on-site at UP Theater Main Hall Stage, with 7:30 pm performances on November 18, 19 and 20. It also has 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. performances from November 19 to 20.

From the recent DUP production, we can’t help but ask next year’s return of the massive hit musical that bravely tackles extra-judicial killings.

Santos said: “Can’t also wait to work on ‘Ang Huling El Bimbo The Musical’ next year. Philippine theater is slowly getting off again, I am fortunate that ‘The Reconciliation Dinner’ is the latest addition to in-theater performances. 

“Hoping the best for everyone. Baby steps… and I pray that the Filipino audience will support the theatre industry whether professional, school or community based or regional.”

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