Review: Benilde reinterprets Palanca-winning 'Fluid'

Posted at 07/24/2014 3:06 PM | Updated as of 07/25/2014 12:15 PM
Russell Legaspi and JC Santos in a scene from "Fluid." Photo by Coconuts Manila

MANILA -- Floy Quintos’ hilarious play "Fluid"—which placed second in the 2004 Carlos Palanca Awards—​is a farce about the artistic establishment. It rails against art forms that are “edgy, relevant and experimental,” all the while being every bit of those.

Quintos wrote "Fluid" in 2004 after a 10-year hiatus. Before that, he was writing plays that dealt with historical themes.

“I spent that time building a career as a director and I felt I had enough exposure to write a play about artists and what they had to deal with as creative forces working in a world that saw art as a commodity,” he says.

"Fluid" is a comedy written as a series of scenes in different locations, featuring three unrelated pairs of characters struggling to be part of the arts scene. In the end, like a Robert Altman film, all of them unexpectedly see each other at an art exhibit.

Also directed by Quintos, "Fluid" depicts the struggles of every artist living in these modern times. Amir (played by Kalil Almonte) is a frustrated young painter about to give up his dreams until Mira (Ana Abad Santos), a wealthy art collector, comes along and promises him fortune and success. Gay couple Jom (JC Santos) and Alben (Russell Legaspi) are two theater actors torn between fame and integrity. Meanwhile, Renata (Amihan Ruiz) is a coordinator at a orchestra company, who goes head-to-head with the overbearing wedding planner Simone (Gel Basa).

The play managed to keep its comic energy all throughout the narrative, although it tended to dip a bit at some parts. Renata’s monologue, for example, turned out to be didactic and preachy as it pretty much gave away the message of the story.

The show boasts a very good ensemble of actors. JC Santos pretty much stole the show as he burst into songs from hit musicals every now and then; he had just come from stints in Hong Kong Disneyland and Universal Studios in Singapore, so Quintos decided to add some musical elements for him. Meanwhile, Legaspi’s heart-wrenching and hilarious monologue in the show captivated the audience.

Abad Santos reprised her 2004 role as Mira, so Quintos updated her character a bit to suit her age, and she performed wonderfully well. On the other hand, there was something forced in the acting of Almonte that he fell under the shadow of his onscreen partner. Basa provided comic relief with her spunky performance, while Ruiz was convincing as a crazy orchestra coordinator turned art critic.

The minimalist set design was pretty impressive, and the transition from one scene to the next was as fluid as the title suggests. Everything just fell into place right where it should be.

In the end, the play was able to capture and expose the phoniness and hypocrisy in the artistic community, and at the same time show what being a true artist really means.

"Fluid" was first produced in 2005 by the UP Playwright’s Theater, and in in 2008 mounted by Ateneo de Manila University. This year's staring is produced by Technical Theater Program Batch 111.

"Fluid" runs from July 24-26, 1pm & 7pm, at 5/F SDA Theater, School of Design and Arts Campus, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, 950 Pablo Ocampo St, Malate, Manila. Tickets: +63 917 9285737, www.facebook.com/fluid111.

This review was first published on the Coconuts Manila website.