I just caught PETA’s Rak of Aegis over the weekend and immediately fell in love with the play. So much so, in fact, that I’m planning to catch it again sometime in August. If you haven’t seen it yet, you absolutely need to buy tickets now because this is a show you would not want to miss.
An overview: the story happens in Barangay Venizia, which has been submerged in flood waters for two months. It centers on Aileen, a talented young singer who believes that her family’s best ticket out of poverty is for her to become a Youtube sensation. This eventually happens, brought about by a video showcasing both Aileen’s singing talent and the fact that her barangay is still beset by a flood which should have receded months ago.
Make no mistake though, this play is more than the plot we’ve set out in broad strokes above. More than anything really, Rak of Aegis is a showcase of the small triumphs and disappointments of Barangay Venizia’s residents whose general (probably genetic) optimism will not allow them to quit trying to make the most of an unfavorable situation. Though comparisons have been made to the foreign musical Mamma Mia (which uses Abba’s songs in the same way Rak of Aegis uses Aegis’), this musical is spiritually more akin to Avenue Q in its treatment of characters in the periphery of society.
But forget all of that, because the plot is not important. This is the only thing you need to know about the play: it is freakishly, wonderfully, riotously funny. Though, I would assume, most of the credit for the comedy goes to writer Liza Magtoto, the actors’ comedic timing in this play is still insane. Particular standouts are Jimmy Marquez, who plays Aileen’s gay best friend Jewel, and Pepe Herrera, who plays Aileen’s suitor Tolits.
The amount of singing talent on this stage was also mind-blowing. Seriously. There was no weak link, and they made some of the singers from the cast of Wicked sound like rank amateurs.
I’ve been trying to think of the reasons why Rak of Aegis works so well, and why it deserves all the critical and commercial success it has received, and I realized that it’s mostly because it felt sincere and honest, and reflective of a general truth. Though I tend to nitpick on production design (which was brilliant in this instance), choreography (mediocre), singing ability (mind-blowing), and acting skills (excellent), for me, the success of a musical or a play still boils down to whether it connects with its audience. And, more than anything, Rak of Aegis connects with its audience, and connects strongly. I think I went home that day just a little bit in love with the residents of Barangay Venizia.
Rak of Aegis will run until August 31, 2014. Please go here for show dates, ticket inquiries and details.
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