Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Amphitryon" by Dulaang UP

          The play Amphitryon is definitely one of the most exciting plays of Dulaang UP. Actually, it was my second time to watch the play as I was also required by my Eng10 teacher to watch the play last year. At first, I thought of not watching the play the second time around because the story was still familiar in my head though I can’t exactly remember the scenes in the play and since at that same night was the most exciting night of the UP Fair and I don’t want to miss the time with my friends in the Fair. But since I fell in love with the play before, and because I want to refresh all the scenes, and due to the impact of the magnificent “Isang Panaginip na El Fili”, I decided to buy myself a ticket of the play. And I didn’t regret with my decision. The play didn’t fail to make me say “the 150 pesos I paid was worth it”. Though there was less excitement, less intrigue and less anticipation because as the play progressed, little by little the scenes came back into my memory and I remembered what’s going to happen next, I wasn’t bored the whole time. I still enjoyed the play, the humour of the characters, the interesting plot, and the amazing and impressive acting skill of the cast.
            I expected that the play this time would be better than the one I saw a year ago. But I see no difference. The degree of humour was the same; the props they used, based on my observation, are exactly the same; the casting was the same though I have no problem with that; or in other words, everything was exactly the same. It would have been better, I guess, if they improved the props, improved the lighting and enhanced the stage decoration. I expected a lot from this year’s showing of Amphitryon concerning those petty technicalities. I was being meticulous this time, I suppose, because I have already seen it before. I was more observant and particular to the small details because I already knew what the play is all about. And improving those small details I specified would have made a great difference on my own perspective. I’m not showing distaste on the play. It was just a minor dissatisfaction because of failed expectations. One of my friends who watched it for the first time was impressed by the play and he told me that he might watch it again. That was also my sentiment the first time I watched the play. I’m not sure if he might think or feel the way I do now after his second viewing.
            These were the strengths of the play: first, the interesting plot. Titus Plautus is a genius. I loved how he constructed the quite complicated and tricky story. Amphitryon revolves around the love story between Amphitryon, Alcmene and Jupiter. Amphitryon has been away at war leaving his wife Alcmene in Thebes. Jupiter fell in love for Alcmene so he pretended to be Amphitryon and slept with Alcmene that particular night while Amphitryon and his slave companion Sosias were still on their way back to Thebes. To complement, another person pretended to be Sosias and it happened to be Mercury according to my research. So while Sosias was on his way back to Thebes to inform Alcmene that his master Amphitryon was on his way back home victorious, he was caught in a dilemma. He encountered another Sosias who was exactly like him, the true Sosias. He was puzzled and confused. He was demoralized and literally beaten so he went back to his master to inform him about the quandary he faced. Amphitryon went straight way back home to clear things up. So when he arrived at Thebes, while Jupiter was able to just leave the house, Alcmene was shocked over his immediate return because she thought the man whom she slept with and the man who she just bade goodbye was his husband. Amphitryon wasn’t pleased by Alcemene’s response to his return which led to more arguments and the revelation of secrets about Alcmene sleeping with another man who she thought was his husband which she was really sure of. More verbal fights and disputes followed. At the same time, Sosias also has his own scenes with the fake Sosias and his wife who was also Alcmene’s maid. It was however more humorous and less dramatic compared to the scenes of Amphitryon and Alcmene. Soon, after the long arguments and while Alcmene already decided to turn his back against the true Amphitryon, Jupiter revealed the truth that he was not the true Amphitryon. He told Alcmene that he pretended to be Amphitryon because he fell in love with her and he was hoping to earn her love. He then cleaned up his mess and left Alcmene and his true love Amphitryon together. Alcmene was blessed with a twin. One was from Amphitryon and the other one was from Jupiter whose name is Hercules. The story is superb. It was unique and different and not the typical love stories we watch in movie houses or in the television. Even gods fall into the trap of love. Was what Jupiter did an act of foolishness? If yes, then even gods do foolish things because of love. And if no, then he was just stepping out of the boat, beyond the specified limits into the water. It was so manly and sincere of him to have stepped down to earth and pretended to be the human Amphitryon. It was a great act of love for Alcmene. However, despite the sincerity, the decision was not good enough. It was a selfish decision. Didn’t it come across his mind that interfering with the affairs of the earth will destroy relationships and cause chaos? Indeed, love makes the world go round. When we are madly and deeply in love, our eyes are blinded. We forget other things like our obligation to other people, the notion that they too have their own right and that they occupy a space that they deserve, and wise discretion is stooped down by the aggressive attacks of the impulsive heart. Sometimes, the other senses become dysfunctional because of almost total reliance to the deceiving and misleading sense of feeling. That’s exactly the scenario where Jupiter was found. Love crushed him that lives almost fell apart. Fortunately, he came back into his senses and he saw the wreck he made. It was almost too late to clean the mess. However, in reality, it’s already too late, most of the time, for us to realize that we have gone overboard and it’s very difficult and almost impossible to fix the damage and to repair what’s broken. The second strength of the play is the excellent casting. It was the same set of cast who played in last year’s Amphitryon that I saw. They certainly have mastered the lines, their expressions, emotions, positions in the stage and other minute details especially with years of training, experience and recurring performances. They speak audibly with the perfect rate, pitch, emphasis and variety depending on the scene. Their facial expressions, movements and other nonverbal cues contributed a more compelling and real scenes. The success of a play doesn’t really rely on the plot of the story, nor at the props and other helpful effects. Its success mainly depends on the players. A great game doesn’t depend on a great court, a great coach, a great audience or a great ball. It depends on its players. And honestly, the performers of Amphitryon played their game well. They’ve had teamwork, they knew when to start and when to end, they knew when to pass the ball and how to exchange passes and they knew just when to shoot it. It was a job well done.
 I shared my own sentiments with my friends who also watched the play. They too enjoyed the night maybe more than I do. I immediately went straight ahead to Sunken Garden, and thought of a weird thing: what if a god badly wants my friends who were in the UP Fair and while I was away, he pretended to be me. It would be a whole-night duel with the unholy god. I just laughed at my insanity. I would never want to be found in the same place as Amphitryon. But it would be an honour, I guess.

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