After nearly three years of lurking in the wings due to the pandemic, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) lifted its curtains to present “Walang Aray,” an irreverent and hilarious play from the ever-creative mind of Rody Vera, backed by the musical genius of Vince Lim, and directed by Ian Segarra. This grand theater comeback is based on the 125-year-old zarzuela "Walang Sugat" by the respected Filipino playwright Severino Reyes. In partnership with Indie.Go Media and Star Magic, PETA officially opened its doors for live public viewing with KDLex as the lead stars, marking the first time that a Gen Z loveteam would headline a Filipino musical!
Set during the height of Philippine revolution, the musical depicts the journey of a famous zarzuela actress Julia (Alexa Ilacad), and her commoner lover Tenyong (KD Estrada). The couple struggled with their relationship to the point of death, especially when the damsel's mother Juana (Neomi Gonzales) proposed to marry Julia off to a wealthy Illustrado Miguel (Jarred Jaicten) after making an agreement with his father Don Tadeo (Norbs Portales). All hell breaks loose when Tenyong’s parents die at the cruel hands of Padre Alfaro (John Moran), prompting him to resist and join the looming uprising against the Spanish government.
Through this star-crossed-lover plot matched with a nationalistic theme, the show struck the perfect combination of satire and comedy that had us on the edge of our seats. Not only did it show the desire of two people to freely express their romance—but it also exhibited the yearning of Filipino rebels to break away from the long chain of oppression and abuse. Kiks Baento and Carlon Matobato who played Monica and Lucas (the helpers of Julia who eventually fell in love), along with the rest of the cast ensemble Tom Bienvenida, Donn Boco, Gerard Dy, Yeyin Dela Cruz, Ada Marie Tayao, and Ayla Garcia, also did an excellent job with their riveting performances on stage.
The most striking part about the play is that even if it was situated during the Spanish colonization, the witty banter between the characters are done in a colloquial manner, making it extra interesting to watch! Everything they say has been tailored to the Gen Z audience, from pop culture references and TikTok dances to the usage of coño language and gay lingo. Even the popular television program Maria Clara at Ibarra was used to mock the absurdities of religious institutions and the endless propaganda circulating at the time. The way they employed familiar slang and trends to convey patriotism and political stance was very well-executed and had the audience laughing during every scene.
How can we ever forget the amazing songs that stirred out so many different emotions in us? The play's music covered a variety of genres such as kundiman, rock, rap, and pop. A real revelation at this theater debut was Alexa and KD! Their musical talent worked well with their undeniable chemistry which created compelling characters for the audience. And let’s face it: it’s exciting to see the country’s “Hottest Musical Pair” take the PETA stage because it gives Gen Z the chance to learn more about the world of theater. KDLex gave us all that we needed through their superb performance—a perfect amount of kilig, a strong sense of longing, and the joy of risking everything in the name of love.
As the KDLex tandem grace the live theater stage, we are also looking forward to the unparalleled talent of the other set of alternates for Tenyong and Julia: Gio Gahol and Marynor Madamesila for the second pair, and Shaira Opsimar and Jon Abella for the third pair.
As for the technical aspect, the production design, sounds, lights, and choreography all grasped the purpose of the play and brought color to the whole show. There was never a dull moment because everything unfolded at the perfect time. On a more commendable note, the wardrobe of the cast was incredibly pleasing to look at for it added a layer and life to the entire storyline. KD and Alexa, in particular, stood out in their glittery outfits with traditional patterns, spreading their appeal to the viewers.
“Walang Aray is a tribute to all the people who work in the theater,” Director Segarra stated during the play’s preparation. Because the musical is based on a zarzuela, prop placement was done openly on stage. It's not your standard play where the staff sets the next scene in a discreet way; instead, we saw them as part of the entire production and even interacted with the characters! The director intends to demonstrate how things are created on a live stage to empower theater professionals and uphold the seamless art of theater and the joy it offers to everyone.
“I think that is what people need right now. They need a space to laugh, to sort of allow themselves to have fun and enjoy something. But of course, in PETA, it’s not just having fun. PETA believes that good comedy makes you think and reflect, and Walang Aray is exactly that,” PETA Artistic Director Maribel Legarda explained in an interview. The much-awaited return of live theatrical production through PETA’s Walang Aray is more than a celebration—it is a reflection of what the country has been through, primarily with the current pandemic and recent election. Walang Aray serves as a tool to remind the Philippine society that for the longest time in history, love has been the driving force behind resistance and that turning a blind eye to all injustices will only convert our nation into a laughingstock that is constantly disguised as unity and resilience.
Walang Aray premiered on February 17 and will run till May 14 at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City. You may book your tickets through this link and experience theater once again!