#TheaterPH - PETA’s Charot: Commentary Cloaked in Comedy

When we worry that we might be taken the wrong way, when we feel that what we say might be inappropriately serious or heavy, when we don’t want our listeners to react negatively… we end our statement with “charot”. 

PETA cleverly uses the Filipino colloquial term in its 51st Theater Season ender. Because it was funny, the audience was more receptive, and nobody walked out feeling antagonized nor attacked. 

The story of Charot unfolds on the road, while the characters are stuck in traffic during bad weather. The scenario becomes a platform for discussion regarding the fine print of the proposed Charter Change: the amendments on the freedoms of expression, ownership, and most especially, federalism. Photo from PETA’s website. 

Watching “Charot” felt like scrolling through social media, it’s a summary of everything that has caught our attention and called for our opinions --- events we laud, stuff we make fun of, things we complain about, personalities who earn our ire and admiration. Little things and big things. Even my “favorite” ma’am-sir found its way into the script. Every Pinoy will find the dialogoues relatable and hilarious, in fact the theater roared with laughter too many times. But hidden under the punchlines is the dismal reality of our society. 

The photo booth. Neck brace included for full effect.

Doesn’t she look familiar?

After the intermission, it became clearer that the team behind the play wanted to do more than just entertain. The presentation of information on Federalism was pretty straightforward, the actors’ lines were supplemented by animation in the background. The awareness-building became more apparent when flyers were handed to the crowd. At some point, I noticed how a few of those seated around me have tuned out. Maybe the message would have been easier to digest if it had been given in small doses, distributed throughout the performance instead of just concentrated in one portion. 

Some voting activities before the show, to warm up the audience for the interaction inside the theater.

Nevertheless, Charot succeeded in sending everyone home knowing a little more and hopefully, pondering a bit more as well. 

Kudos to playwrights J-mee Katanyag and Michelle Ngu. When they were introduced during curtain call, I clapped louder, looked at my seatmate and mouthed “ah, the crazy ones”. And I meant that in a very good way. I was in awe of how they managed to seamlessly weave all the current events into the script. 

The actors were all amazing. It escapes me how they stayed in character 100% of the time and managed to keep a straight face throughout. 

This was the cast on the night I watched. Alternates are Jean “Gardo” Vicente for Millennial Girl, Bene Manaois for Millennial Boy, Roi Calilong for Boss, Gio Gahol for Beki Carpool Driver, Jimma Nariz for Grethel Tuba, and Rhapsody Li for Supermall Lady.

The cast of Charot during curtain call.

They moved around a lot and I loved how they shook and swayed and glided in slow motion when called for. Is that part of choreography? I think it was flawless. Awesome job, Maribel Legarda (director) and Ian Segarra (assistant director and choreographer)!

Completing the artistic team are Vince Lim (musical director), Jeff Hernandez (additional songs), Boni Juan (set designer), Julio Garcia (set supervisor) Gio Gahol (costume stylist), Denise Nayve (associate costume stylist), Gerhard Daco (technical director), Jonjon Villareal (lights designer), and Ellen Ramos (video and animation).

Members of the artistic team take a bow with the cast.

Charot is part of “Stage of the Nation”, a creative campaign that hopes to utilize the arts and engage artists to contribute to the discourses that concern our nation. Photo from PETA’s website.

PETA’s “Charot!” runs from February 8 to March 17, 2019 at The PETA Theater Center, #5 Eymard Drive, Brgy. Kristong Hari, New Manila, Quezon City, with shows on Fridays (3:00pm), Saturdays and Sundays (3:00pm and 8:00pm). For inquiries and ticket reservations, contact PETA Marketing and Public Relations Office at (02) 725-6244, TicketWorld at 891-9999, www.ticketworld.com.ph, or Ticket2Me at (02) 721-0431 to 33 loc. 8109, www.ticket2me.net.

The PETA Theater shook with laughter during the gala performance, entertainment kicked off the moment we entered the door.

There was no dull moment, even the pre-show voice over announcements elicited guffaws. 

Special thanks Nana Nadal for this article! 

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