As part of its Stage of the Nation Campaign, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) made it a point to produce a musical that would teach its audience the importance of voting, as well as the weight that came a long with it. Especially, when the elections decided to rear its head around the corner already. Although “Voters’ Ed” was not the newest theme for the said theater company to tackle, PETA definitely took it a step further with their latest production of CHAROT!.
The events of CHAROT! took place in the fictional version of the Philippines, specifically on the equally as fictional version of EDSA, where people attempted to make their way to their respective voting precincts amidst the heavy traffic and other acts of God. While already seemingly hopeless, an unlikely group of personalities get stuck together, for better or for worse. Together, they discover the hefty price of casting their votes for or against the so-called “Charter of Togetherness” or “CHAROT”, for short.
CHAROT!’s entire artistic design was what anyone would expect of a PETA production: innovative, creative, and fun. Without a doubt, the company employed some of the best artists – senior and up-and-coming – to take part in the amazing line-up of the production’s Artistic Team. Of course, this was already an excitable expectation of the theater company. Nonetheless, they deserved as much claps as the cast on-stage.
The opening night’s line-up was strong and was also a line-up to commend. The cast’s chemistry was quite palpable that it made interactions between the characters seem so natural and so easy to watch. The individual characters, as well, were backstories to look forward to as the story progressed; especially with the amount of time and effort that the actors behind them invested in making them more understandable than unbearable.
Huge props to these actors:
Jason Barcial as “Boss”
Gold Villar-Lim as “Grethel Tuba”
Norbs Portales as “Street Vendor”
Meann Espinosa as “Tita Mary Grace”, “Sister Joy”, and “Karen de Villa”
Story & Interactivity
While comparing the production to Bandersnatch would be a wide stretch, CHAROT’s story was as powerful as its interactivity, in its own socio-political way. The writing made sure that the audience would be pointed where the story should appropriately go. On the other, sharing trust and moral responsibility to the theater-goers by allowing them the freedom to decide was quite bold as well; especially when there would undoubtedly be some who prefer to differ in choice. Even so, such a risk would have been needed either way; especially in seeing how much the story moved its viewers. Fortunately, for any end, the show would close with an open forum that would help in processing everything.
CHAROT! was a very fun and comedic way of tackling a heavy subject. However, it was also very real. It was laced in so much subtext despite its light-hearted approach to teaching its audience what was right or wrong and it became quite alarming at some point. Any member of the audience with enough consciousness would find themselves asking, “okay pa rin bang pagtawanan ‘to?” Without a doubt, this was a courageous jab and a welcomed wake-up call about the culture of happiness that the country had grown accustomed to and was known for.
There were very few things to dislike about the production, which would admittedly be borderline nitpicking already. However, one element to be vocal about was its fourth-wall breaking near the end of the finale. The audience was asked to cast their vote and break the tie, by sending in their choice via mobile phones – Millennial Boy asked so. Such would have been fine; however, the abrupt use of the Brechtian method made it seem as though the story just settled to close.
Understandably, the musical would have ended at the beginning if the characters voted through their phones; nevertheless, there could have been a more seamless manner to invite the members of the audience.
CHAROT! was definitely an amazing show to experience. Was it perfect? No. However, it does have plenty of space to get there. Moreover, what was most important about it was that the play came and did what it needed to do. True to PETA’s mission of education, the production definitely delivered the moral that it sought to put out.
Catch more of their shows, this month of February until March 17, 2019 at the PETA Theater Center. For inquiries and ticket reservations, contact PETA Marketing and Public Relations Office at Tel. No. 725-6244, TicketWorld at 891-9999, www.ticketworld.com.ph, or Ticket2Me at 721-0431 to 33 loc. 8109, www.ticket2me.net.