“PROGRESS” is tragic. But reinvented as a musical, the short story by National Artist F. Sionil Jose offered some moments of camp and comedy, which was a good thing, because too much tragedy dulls the senses.
In its restaging earlier this month in Cebu City’s CAP Art Center, “Progress” leaned heavily on three memorable actors. Alden “Bata” Reambonanza portrayed four government officials and employees, with varying degrees of sleaze. April Ann Moncada took on at least six roles, including a minister who looked like Annie but enunciated like a young Miriam Santiago.
While the two provoked the most laughs, Pennylane Gavino Reambonanza, playing the underappreciated government clerk Marina Salcedo, supplied just the right amount of pathos. One could see her face dimming with every indignity Marina had to endure, in pursuit of her overdue promotion papers.
The rest of the cast served as a Greek chorus, providing the narration (sometimes spoken, sometimes sung-through) and the voices in Marina’s head.
Well-timed pop-culture touches — like a riff from “Turning Japanese,” a “zombie clerk” and a slow-mo sequence that had the young audience in stitches — almost made one forget that it was a very sad story unfolding onstage. Sad and still familiar, although the material Jose mined is at least three decades old. It was kind of the cast to entertain, even as they made us think.
(“Progress, the Musical” was presented by Little Boy Productions and directed by Nar Cabico. Also in the cast were Junrey Alayacyac, Venice Lafradez, JJ Ang, Atoy Bitancor, Alfred Reambonanza, Kristian Malintad and Anne Valerie Salmero. Check out Little Boy Productions on Facebook for more information about upcoming presentations.)