Float or flush? Review of Ateneo Blue Rep's 'Toilet'

Posted at 02/18/2014 4:24 PM
A scene from "Toilet the Musical." Photo: Handout

MANILA -- This musical happens in a toilet. It begs the obvious question: Is the show a piece of sh*t?

Ateneo Blue Repertory’s "Toilet the Musical" is the story about the lives of a group of high school students. The characters are the usual suspects: the jock, girl-next-door, nerd, average joe, uptight religious nut, slut, fat girl.

From the outside, how bad can a high school student’s problems be? They can’t be any worse than acne, crushes and being accepted in a clique.

But in the minds of the characters, these problems are "sink-or-swim" moments, a first taste of life’s real big woes. The choices they make define their values and character.

This duality rings true with who we are inside and outside toilets, or so Ejay Yatco, the musical’s creator, believes. In his production notes, he says people wear "masks" in daily interactions with others, but we are our true selves in the confines of the toilet.

In the show, the jock happens to be smart, too, and vying for class valedictorian, but the boy is also into drugs (blame it on a less than perfect relationship with the dad).

The uptight religious girl who brandishes scripture passages every five sentences happens to have a mean streak, and is not beyond having premarital sex.

A scene from "Toilet the Musical." Photo: Handout

This germ of an idea is a very good starting point for a show, but the execution needs work. The toilet concept falls short at times because of the poor way that the space is defined relative to the scene. The big "social" scenes could be better delineated from the personal scenes in the toilets where a lot of the supposed internal conflict takes place.

The show employs an omnipotent character in the person of a janitor to provide wisdom to all the goings-on. Such role requires some gravitas in order to be effective.

It’s often heartening to see the young actors perform. What they lack in technique and precision, they make up for with passion, energy and pride. With discipline and more training in voice, movement, text and nuance, a number of the actors can make it into professional theater.

Nel Gomez as "average joe" Joey, Mica Fajardo as religious nut Lucille, Lorenzo Mendoza as the nerd Gus, Cassie Manalastas as fat girl Tiffany and Franco Chan as jock Paul delivered some good moments in the show.

"Toilet the Musical" runs until March 1 at the Gonzaga Exhibit Hall of the Ateneo de Manila University.