After producing the play MAS MABIGAT ANG LIWANAG SA KALUNGKUTAN by Rogelio Braga, the company embarked on a journey to an international arts festival – Fringe Manila. Allowing itself to shine on the cosmopolitan stage in Makati’s The Pineapple Lab (by Andrei Pamintuan, also a thespian), UP Rep restaged U.Z. Eliserio’s outrageously blasphemous KARITAS AT DAMASO with the same approach as the 2015 twinbill ISANG MAGSASAKA x KARITAS AT DAMASO. The play ran on different showdates in February, so-called National Arts Month of the Philippines. Dax Carnay directs, with the cast reprising their roles (with Bryle Leaño as Karitas) and three new members of the ensemble.
A preshow preceded the one-act play, where the company is introduced by its current production manager Jake Ryne Evangelio (Batch 13-A) and a tula-dula on violence against women, homosexuals and the working class is performed (Pasyon ni Amor/Tibo ang Positibo/Camilla Rosa) as a mood-setter.
KARITAS AT DAMASO is a musical farce about a young religious woman Juana Donna who goes to church to confess that she has been raped, hoping the confession would retrieve her virginity so she can marry. What she witnesses is a hypocritical exchange of dirty secrets, sexual affairs and lewd practices unbecoming of the three religious fanatics Padre Damaso, Mother Karitas and Sister Salve Regina. Their woes are echoed in songs, with 6 saint statues coming to life as backup dancers.
The audience’s reactions were very familiar, as KARITAS AT DAMASO proves again its witty yet also incredibly irreverent humor. A blog post released last year, INTENT TO INSULT, opens up the play’s subject matter and its script that allegedly intends to ridicule the Church and nothing more. The impression was quite familiar with Kilos Sining students (a program from Guro ng Sining, led by Jhoven Sy and Glecy Atienza, involving students from different colleges) who recently had a Danas-Dula activity to watch different plays. When they saw KARITAS AT DAMASO, they were extremely shocked. Some praised the overall direction and enjoyed the costumes, music and performances, some were offed by the sexual innuendoes combined with the blasphemous songs and catchphrases, and some never want to see it again.
But if it has proven anything, KARITAS AT DAMASO’s exaggerations has successfully challenged local notions of faith and our love for suffering in a predominantly Christian country, all through an enjoyable and subversive theatrical experience, while also conquering cosmopolitan sensibilities of arts and culture:
But then again, still a lot has to be done.
Additional photos courtesy of Darren Bendanillo.