With its beating heart, sharp mind and uncapturable soul, “Mula sa Buwan” is proof that musical theater in the Philippines is alive, well and thriving
The trope of unrequited affections may be as old as the moon, but playwright-director Pat Valera and lyricist-composer William Manzano’s “Mula sa Buwan” is a mesmerizingly human take on it…a refreshing redefinition of what it means to love.
Set in 1940’s Manila during the cusp of war up until its culmination, “Mula sa Buwan” is, at face value, a love triangle involving long-nosed Cyrano with his one-sided affections for his childhood love, Roxane, and the handsome newcomer that is Christian. As the story ensues, however, it evolves drastically from one about unrequited love to a tale revolving around the choices people make in the face of ugliness. Here lies the choice to look at it lovingly by seeing beyond skin deep or the choice to focus on what’s on the surface. The play seems to consider that the latter might be the most natural, as it exhibits the human experience of being able to see infinite dimensions within one thing.
What sets the musical apart from all the other stories utilizing the same theme is that instead of parading the old adage about how love reigns over anything and everything, it compels us to think that love might not be as infallible or invincible; it may just be something that simply reveals.
“Mula sa Buwan” does not romanticize the unpleasant layers of something; it keeps them disagreeable and honest, but reminds the audience about what lies beyond them. Humans know that there is always more than meets the eye––and love chooses to see whatever that is.
Christian is never villainized for being handsome. In the same way, Cyrano’s unfortunate nose isn’t portrayed as something that entitles him to everything his heart desires. Instead, the former’s apparent simplemindedness does not discount the fact that he is charming and likeable, and the latter, with all his great wit and competence, is still faulted for his being quite irresolute.
Towards the end of the musical, leaves begin to wither as they signal the turning of the seasons. Cyrano points at them as he speaks to Roxanne.
“Buti ang mga dahon, marunong mamatay.”
He says that leaves die with dignity. They may wither, decay and turn ugly, but they slowly, gracefully dance in the wind as they do.
As the musical showcases a beautiful scene about decaying leaves, it challenges us to consider the fact that maybe there is dancing in death. Maybe there is love in war. Maybe there is gold in rubble.
Perhaps denying ourselves the ability to acknowledge beauty in the midst of ugliness is not all inconsideration, but a hallmark of humanity. This is what seems to capture the 1940’s zeitgeist for the play.
Ultimately, “Mula sa Buwan” is a story about deciding to see depth.
Just as how a smart and engaging musical could hilariously land juvenile quips such as Cyrano’s “Patas nga ang Diyos..” upon discovering Christian’s intellectual capacity (or maybe a lack thereof), the play showcases the human fact that a single thing is never made of just a single dimension. Something ugly can also be beautiful. Something hilarious could also be sad. Something so fantastical could also be so true.
It manages to be all of the aforementioned, but truthfully, there are still some rough edges around the musical. The character of Roxane could benefit from being a little more round. To add: the first act prior to the arrival of the vivacious Cyrano was not much of a strong start. Still, these inadequacies certainly do not make “Mula sa Buwan” any less of a musical that merits being loved to the moon and back.
“Mula sa Buwan” will be showing at the Hyundai Hall in Ateneo de Manila University’s Arete until November 25, 2018. For more information and ticket reservations, visit www.mulasabuwan.ph.
Words Danielle Francisco
Photography I.R. Arenas
Art Alexandra Lara