The Quest For The Adarna: A Much-Needed Throwback & Eye-Opener
The Quest For The Adarna is marketed as a family watch—but it isn’t just that
When I was in high school, clad in uniform and black leather shoes, I was introduced to Ibong Adarna. It wasn’t by my own choosing, of course; as a pivotal piece of Philippine literature (despite no one’s certainty on who wrote it), it was part of the curriculum that was deemed necessary learning.
Did I enjoy the lessons? No. Did I ace the subject that year? If memory serves me right, I embarrassed my mother with my report card. Can I recite lines from the epic poem? Of course not. But did I enjoy REP Philippines’ take on the story, The Quest For The Adarna? I actually did.
In all relevant aspects, the story of The Quest For The Adarna is what you’ll recall from your adolescence: Three brothers each taking turns to try and capture Adarna, a mythical bird whose song is supposed to heal their dying father—and whose droppings turn you into stone.
Just the same, the moral of the story stays intact. So whatever it is you wrote down on your test paper, the lesson still holds true. The only difference is that you see it all unfold in colorful grandeur (and understand it with ease).
It is no easy task to put a stage together, but Berbania truly comes to life on stage. The play on colors and costumes works well for the story, of which the English adaptation was written by Luna Griño-Inocian.
But other than the standard moving setting and play on leveling, The Quest For The Adarna also gives shadow puppetry a try—admirable, though not without its faults. It’s not something we often see in Philippine theater and the attempt was proof of this. It looked great, but it definitely wasn’t a mastered craft.
Because it’s marketed as a family must-see stage adaptation, The Quest For The Adarna has songs littered all over its two-act presentation. They are as lively as you expect but they’re definitely catchier than you might want them to be.
With music from Rony Fortich and lyrics from Griño-Inocian, genres you wouldn’t expect are sung on stage. From rap to ballads and pop songs that the audience is taught on the spot, the music direction runs the risk of being labeled confused; the thing is, everything still ties nicely together as you’re kept on your toes.
Creative director Joy Virata knows how to make the chemistry of her actors shine and The Quest For The Adarna is just further proof of this. The roster includes Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Shiela Valderrama-Martinez,Andrea Monique Alvarado and Cara Barredo sharing the role of Adarna, Arion Sanchez, Jim Andrew Ferrer and Ade Valenzona as Prince Pedro, Vinni Todd, Luis Marcelo, and Sean Nolasco as Prince Diego and Leo John Guinid, Diego Aranda and Neo Rivera as Prince Juan.
If you’re to ask whether or not The Quest For The Adarna is worth the ticket price, the quick answer is yes. But if you’ll allow me to explain the real and simple reason, it is this: The story of Ibong Adarna deserves to be watched and understood and internalized in the way that REP’s Theater for Young Audiences presents it. It deserves to be ingrained in your memory for the simple fact that it’s one of the pieces of our literature that has stood the test of time.
Besides, my nine-year-old and six-year-old nieces enjoyed it and—maybe more importantly—they still talk about it. And if that isn’t proof of the show’s effectivity, then I don’t know what is.
The Quest For The Adarna is showing at Onstage Theater of Greenbelt 1 from now until January 12, 2020. You can (and should) buy your tickets here.
Art Alexandra Lara