‘Always Upon a Time’: Classic fables remade for today’s kids | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022


In its premiere production “Always Upon a Time,” Playshop Playhouse rises to the challenge of making classic fairy tales and Biblical parables relevant to a Gen Z audience and their parents by placing these tales within the context of a Filipino family.


The youth arm of the longtime theater company Trumpets, Inc. unveiled the simple story of a grieving widower (Lorenz Martinez) unable to comfort his two young sons, Danny (Daniel Drilon) and Tommy (Gabo Tiongson), but for an accidental lockup in the attic where his late wife kept the books she used to read to their kids, which forces him to face his demons.


Show in progress


That basic setup gave the Playshop teen-to-young-adult ensemble the excuse to reenact the stories with energetic song, dance and puppetry.


Before the show, Playshop executive director Joaquin Valdes gave the caveat that the production was a show in progress, still under tweaking before a planned tour or a second performance (it played for only a weekend at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of RCBC Tower).


The ensemble attacked their shifting roles with vigor and enthusiasm, and the winning combination of raw earnestness and skill honed by months of theatrical training managed to elevate the performance a notch above recital level.


The overwhelming number of parents in the audience indicated this was a family affair; a different, distant set of viewers may ask for more emotional nuances rather than plain charm from the young cast.


 Deeper story


Nuances will be called for because Playshop wants to tell a deeper story than the moral lessons portrayed in “The Frog Prince” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Danny and Tommy look to these stories as guides in a motherless yet bright future. They move on to the Bible for inspiration. However, their dad sees them as painful reminders of his wife.


Director, scriptwriter and lyricist Steven Conde made the storytelling a mirror of the father’s inner tug-of-war. Light and darkness were evenly balanced in this two-hour production, with Vince Lim’s lilting music swinging from sunny, bouncing tunes to soul-searching introspection.


Still, some of the directorial choices could have made the drama a bit clearer. Better lighting could have distinguished the actress who played Mom from the other minor characters she also brought to life. The puppetry and imaginative props generally worked—but pitting a miniature wooden David against a sedentary giant cartoonish box that represented Goliath dampened the liveliness of that particular scene.



 Difficult story


Equally jarring was the climactic story that pushed Dad into learning his own lesson about love, loss and faith.


Job’s travails are one of the most difficult, complex stories in the Bible. Scholars and philosophers still argue about the nature and virtue of suffering. A child actor spouting its verses as supposed words of comfort can come across as unintentionally dismissive, rather than warm and encouraging.


Still, all ends well, with Lim’s final moving song showing Dad making a conscious decision to trust the Almighty and move forward.


This production is a worthy first attempt, with weaknesses that can be easily remedied by a bit more reworking. And judging from those smiling young faces on stage, they wouldn’t mind the extra rehearsals.  —CONTRIBUTED

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