What started out as a pun of the musical ‘Rock of Ages’, evolved as a unique show on its own. ‘Rak of Aegis’ has a ton going for it, nostalgia, social commentary, humor, plus awesome music!
The story is set in Barangay Venizia, a small community more similar to Navotas with its perpetual flooding problem rather than its namesake, Venice. Enter Aileen (Aicelle Santos), a hardworking blue collared girl who wants to make it big by making a viral video of her singing talent in order to submit to Ellen DeGeneres. Aileen’s get-rich-quick attitude is opposed by her father Kiel (Robert Sena), a down-on-his-luck cobbler whose livelihood is threatened by the eternal flood in the barangay. The situation has become more awkward since Kiel’s ex is his boss Mary Jane (Isay Alvarez), who is also the barangay’s Kapitana. Her problems are compounded by having to balance her duties as the town official & her responsibility as employer of her shoe business, as the flood is making livelihood & basic services untenable. Her responsibilities as a mother to Kenny (Poppert Bernadas) adds to her list of woes, as he constantly daydreams of becoming an artist/designer rather than doing something more practical.
The town is jolted when Aileen’s vine becomes a YouTube sensation! The circumstances are turned upside down, where what once was a deluge is now a boon, as the flood has become a tourist attraction & source of income. The gods however, in a cruel twist of irony, decide to alleviate the inundation on the day before the concert of Aileen. The people of Venizia ultimately decide that short term solutions are never the answer, & begin to rebuild slowly their shoe industry & their lives.
PETA was able to bring its A-game with this musical, showing off its true strength by capturing a slice of the Filipino Diaspora, people striving amidst adversity, individuals keeping a cheerful appearance despite bleak economic conditions, finding joy, laughter & love while bereft of dignity & stability.
Stage design by Mio Infante was brilliant, mixing creativeness with gritty realism, impressive considering they were able to flood the stage itself! The production numbers were no less audacious, with dance numbers on water, giant bubbles, gondolas & audience participation, this show literally had everything! The guilty pleasure of listening to Aegis hits is wonderful. Ask any socialite or elitist & they will condemn you for listening to something so ‘bakya’, but deep inside, they are also belting it out when ‘Basang Basa sa Ulan’ reaches its chorus. The script is impeccable, witticisms abound leaving the audience breathless with laughter while the intricate multi-plots of Aileen’s dream fulfillment, love triangle between Aileen-Kenny-Tolits, & tension of ex-lovers Kiel & Mary Jane are woven seamlessly. Nothing can be said about the acting/directing as this is as good as I have ever seen a PETA show. I particularly enjoyed Jerald Napoles’ portrayal of Tolits, as he delivered his one-liners spot on. Robert Sena was a surprisingly powerful Baritone. As an added bonus, since I watched on opening night, the Aegis band itself performed their trademark ‘Luha’ & ‘Halik’ at the closing.
However, the most poignant message I drew from this, is that one’s perceived handicap can become an emotional crutch, a reason to pity oneself & rile away at the world. Take that crutch away & we cling to it tightly as we will no longer have an excuse, a fallback. The way the Venizian’s lamented the flood, but then could not let go when it became a source of fame & money captures this point vividly.
‘Rak of Aegis’ is directed by Maribel Legarda, written by Liza Magtoto, features Isay Alvarez & Robert Sena & the songs of Aegis. Visit www.petatheater.com or www.facebook.com/PETATHEATER for updates on repeat runs.