Monday, February 16, 2015

Flirting with Danger: Tanghalang Pilipino Ends Season with Dangerous Liaisons Adaptation

Vin Abrenica and Adrienne Vergara
When the historical drama Dangerous Liaisons came out in 1988, it became an instant classic, and its characters became iconic roles of actors Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer. The film, both devious and delicious, was adapted from the play by Christopher Hampton, who adapted the 1782 epistolary novel Les Liasons Dangereuses by French novelist Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. A modern filmic adaptation, Cruel Intentions, in 1999, though less acclaimed, was also popular.
Famous psychologist and sex therapist Margarita Go Singco-Holmes loves Dangerous Liaisons so much that she watched the movie many times and even included it as a recommended watch in a subject she teaches in school, which explores gender and sexuality.
Dangerous Liaisons really encapsulates so much of human relationships,” she said, further mentioning the portrayal of subtle human emotions that comes out powerful, and the universality of the emotions illustrated as some of its attractions.
Now, Go Singco-Holmes is gushing over the new play of Tanghalang Pilipino (TP). The resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines is mounting a Filipino adaptation of the well-known story of love, deceit, seduction and revenge called Juego de Peligro as the closing production for its 28th theater season, which will start on Feb. 20 at the CCP’s Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino with succeeding performances on February 21, 22, 27, 28, and March 1, 6 and 8, 2015, at 3 P.M. and 8 P.M.
Playwright Elmer Gatchalian adapted the Hampton play, which is directed by TP associate artistic director Tuxqs Rutaquio. Rutaquio has been wanting to stage Dangerous Liaisons for a long time. Fifteen years ago, he accidentally saw a script, Gatchalian’s Filipino translation of the Hampton play, through actress Eugene Domingo, and nursed the idea of bringing it to stage. He was waiting for the right time and the right actors to play the characters. Two years ago, Gatchalian gave the script to TP, and they started to meet. They toyed with the idea of setting it in modern times.
“I thought it would not work. We love Dangerous Liaisons because it is period. It’s lavish. ‘Yun ‘yung kabaklaan doon (That’s the gayness of it). We looked for a period in our history that was apt for it, and it was before the revolution,” Rutaquio related.
He said the play is faithful to the novel, but, he said, “we transported the story to the last decade of the 19th century and it is now set in Intramuros, Manila, during the dying years of the Spanish regime.”
Juego de Peligro follows the machinations of Señora Margarita and Señor Vicente, peninsulares or Spaniards born on the islands. This makes them more privileged than the natives, but below the insulares, those born in Spain. They are Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont, respectively, in the original material.
In the story, Señora Margarita asks her former lover Señor Vicente to seduce Cecilia (Cécile de Volanges), but he proposes another plan — making the religious and recently married mestiza Señora Teresa (Madame de Tourvel) fall in love with him. While waiting for his plan to come to fruition, Señora Margarita tries to corrupt the indio Daniel (Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny) who is in love with Cecilia, a rich, convent-bred girl set to wed a man she hardly knows. She is secretly in love though with her indio piano teacher. The play proceeds to unravel a series of tragic events that will challenge the two main characters, using letters in piecing together the twisting story.
The cast of Juego de Peligro is headlined by veteran stage and film actress Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, playing Señora Margarita, the Filipino reincarnation of Marquise de Merteuil, made iconic by Glenn Close in the film adaptation. The 2012 Asian Film Awards’ Best Supporting Actress considers her character “not a stereotypical woman.” “She transcends her gender… Her life force is hungrier than other people’s… She wants a different role in society, not just being subservient to men,” she said.
Centenera-Buencamino is joined by 2009 Cinemalaya Best Supporting Actor Arnold Reyes as Señor Vicente. Reyes has played many characters before— from closet gay lawyer in the film Kasal to a desperate father of a kidnapped girl in Graceland, but he said that playing Señor Vicente would be a challenged especially upon learning that John Malkovich portrayed the rakish and charmer character in Dangerous Liaisons.
Two showbiz personalities add glitter to the production, both testing theater for the first time—Vin Abrenica and LJ Reyes.
Reyes is a runner-up in GMA 7’s talent search StarStruck in 2004 and was involved with several drama series of the network. In 2010, she did the independent film The Leaving, a Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival entry, and was recognized as Best Supporting Actress at the Cinemalaya. She did another indie film, Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino, in 2012. Recently, she finished work for Jun Lana’s Mga Anino sa Likod ng Buwan. For Juego de Peligro, Reyes plays Señora Teresa, the character famously portrayed by Michelle Pffeifer in the 1988 movie.
“As an actor, I want to harness my skills and talent. Hindi ko puwedeng iasa sa TV at film, at alam kong hindi ako matatawag na aktres kung hindi ko mata-try ang treatro (I can’t rely on TV and film, and I know I can’t really be called an actress if I didn’t try theater),” Reyes revealed her reason for joining the play.  
On the other hand, Abrenica said that “acting and the arts are my passion. And I really want to explore.” Three years ago, the younger brother of actor Aljur Abrenica won the talent search Artista Academy of TV5. After a number of TV series, Abrenica is all set for the play, essaying the role of Daniel. Alternating for the role is boyish newcomer Lharby Policarpio, who gained notice in Kanakan Balintagos’s “Esprit de Corps.”
Cecilia will be played by Sipat Lawin Ensemble core player Adrienne Vergara. It is the character portrayed by Uma Thurman in the 1988 movie and by Selma Blair in Cruel Intentions. The bubbly Theater Arts graduate of the Philippine High School for the Arts and University of the Philippines Diliman will swing this role.
Completing the cast are veteran TV and theater actress Sherry Lara, Sasa Cabalquinto, Jonathan Tadioan, Raquel Pareño, Aldo Vencilao and Lhorvie Nuevo.
On the other hand, the artistic team includes Giselle Garcia for the dramaturgy, John Batalla for the lighting design, Jed Balsamo for the sound design, and James Reyes for the costumes. Rutaquio designs the stage.

Tickets are priced at P1,000 and P800 with 20 percent discount for senior citizens, government employees, military employees and PWDs (with valid ID). Tickets can be purchased at Ticketworld, or call Tanghalang Pilipino at (02) 832-1125, local 1620, or at 09218-204155 or 0905-2544930. For updates, Visit the official Tanghalang Pilipino Facebook page, or via Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtags #tanghalangpilipino, #juegodepeligro, #juego and #dangerousliasons.

LJ Reyes
Arnold Reyes
Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino
Vin Abrenica

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