PEOPLE POWER Created and performed by the ensemble, directed by Nina Lee Aquino (Carlos Bulosan/Theatre Passe Muraille). At Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). To May 11. Pwyc-$29. 416-504-7529. See listings. Rating: NNNN
Need evidence that a culturally oriented theatre company can fly sky-high? Check out the collectively created People Power, proof that Carlos Bulosan Theatre is no longer a community-based troupe.
Talking urgently and cogently about a charged moment in Filipino history, the piece looks at the grassroots-driven, mid-80s People Power Revolution.
Five actors fill the stage with more than 60 characters, suggesting the bubbling desire for change felt by the common people under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Emotional battles eventually drew the army and even some of the privileged to Cory Aquino’s side.
We meet Victor (Leon Aureus), a photojournalist who realizes he can help present the uprising’s true story; Manny (Nicco Lorenzo Garcia), a taxi driver initially dismissive of the rebels; and Flor (Rose Cortez), a meek servant finally inspired to action. Then there’s Anna (Christine Mangosing), a student who can’t speak of her politics to her conservative family, and Geline (Nadine Villasin), who works for the revolution from her new home in San Francisco.
Director/dramaturge Nina Lee Aquino stages the play with inventiveness and excitement, often taking the action out into the audience so we feel part of this world. Along with choreographer Clare Preuss, she creates a swirling, action-filled production that concentrates on the story of the little people seething under Marcos and his fashionista wife, Imelda.
Camellia Koo’s set relies on blown-up photos hung on wires, images that contrast the worlds of rich and poor. The point is made more explicitly by the rival election posters for Marcos and Cory pasted everywhere in the theatre. Romeo Candido’s soundscape is just as impressive. A romantic love song suggests the haves, and drumming (both a funeral march and angry rebel calls) the have-nots.
The show, in English and Tagalog, has its flaws – some of the characters need further development, words are sometimes lost – but People Power radiates a high-power energy that lights up the stage.