1. Restoration Comedy and a Comedy of Manners
The Country Wife is a play in five acts written by William Wycherley in 1675. A classic comedy of manners, it satirizes hypocrisy and human misjudgement that dominated during the Puritan Regime. Theaters in the UK during this period were then closed from 1642-60 being considered “as sites of indecent acts embodied by actors and participated in by the audience”. It was only reopened upon the return of Charles II from exile in France and The Netherlands. This period is also known as the Restoration.
- Paradoxical Plot
The plot revolves around men and women belonging to high society whose lives are entangled in the paradox of love, marriage, mores, sexual conduct and politics. A notorious philanderer’s homecoming ignites a series of infidelities and indiscretions. An innocent young woman from the countryside speaks honestly of her thoughts and desires posing a challenge to the gendered norms and moral codes of the period. These actions bring to the fore questions on urban decadence and displacement of ingenuity which are then and now usually dissimulated.
- Dramaturgical Devices
The play is composed of foul language and of domestic violence. Asides are also heavily employed wherein characters think aloud. This ‘anti-naturalistic device’ works for the audience to hear the characters’ inner perspectives. Thus, the spectators become aware of the characters’ intent and the roles they play especially in high urban society that is too conscious of name, image, honor and reputation.
- Familiar yet Interesting Characters
Typical of comedies, Whycherley’s characters romp their own names. Mr. Horner is a man who possesses sexual desire (horny) as a cuckold (cornudo / pendeho), an allusion to brood parasite species of cuckoo bird that normally “lays their eggs in the nests of others”. Mrs. Margery Pinchwife, whose medieval name symbolizes happiness and a precious pearl is the wife who pinches a husband in pursuit of joy. Mr. Pinchwife is the husband who gets pinched by his own manner of repressing his provincial wife. Sparkish is a fop and a vain who merely appears clever. Dorilant is a reflection of Horner. Members of the Fidget family: Sir Jasper, Lady Fidget and Dainty have their own manifestations of flirty manner and sexual restlessness. The Old and Young Lady Squeamish mirror each other in being morally scrupulous yet violate their own conventions. Of course, Doctor Quack is engaged in a fraudulent act. We find redemption in Lucy as the servant who sees the “light”. In Harcourt, whose name is from the Old French for a “fortified farm”, as he embraces a new role from a Gallant (man-about-town) to a lover with a commitment. Finally, in Alithea, whose Greek name pertains to truth, as she finds a true heart in the end.
- Powerful Artistic Team
Adaptation and Direction by Dulaang UP Founding Director and UP Professor Emeritus Tony Mabesa. Translation by Palanca Awardee Nicolas Pichay. Set Design by 2014 NCCA Ani ng Dangal Awardee and 2013 Obie Awardee Clint Ramos. Costume Design and Hair by Ikaw Lamang tandem Eric Pineda and Ruben Nazareth. Lighting Design by Shakira Villa Symes who also designed the Philippine staging of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert. Sound Design and Technical Direction by UP Theater Program faculty and Dulaang UP residents Jethro Joaquin and Meliton Roxas. Assistance in Direction by Fitz Bitaña (On Your Last Legs, Project Mayhem Productions). Dramaturgy by Joanna Lerio with Chona Fernando, both Candidates of MA in Theater Arts at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
- Stellar Ensemble of Theater, TV and Film Actors
Martha Comia (The Duchess of Malfi / Ang Dukesa ng Malfi, DUP) and Sue Prado (Barber’s Tales, APT Entertainment-OctoberTrain Films) play the titular role of an innocent young woman from the province: Mrs. Margery Pinchwife. Cinemalaya Awardee Sari Estrada (Asan si Lolo Mȇ?, UP Film Institute) also performs as The Country Wife. George de Jesus (The Emperor’s New Clothes, Tanghalang Pilipino) and Tarek El Tayech (Breakaway Antigone, Tanghalang Ateneo) play the husband Mr. Pinchwife. Neil Ryan Sese (Munting Heredera, GMA Network) and Jay Gonzaga (Orozman at Zafira, DUP) as the king philanderer Mr. Horner. Seasoned actress Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino (Niño, Cinemalaya) essays the role of Sparkish. Frontrow’s RS Francisco (M. Butterfly, DUP) and Arvin Trinidad (Hollywood Boot Camp, Bigfoot Entertainment) also alternate as Sparkish. Jacques Borlaza (The Duchess of Malfi, DUP) and Leo Rialp (Aspects of Love, Andrew Lloyd Webber) portray Sir Jasper Fidget. Adriana Agcaoili (The Duchess of Malfi, DUP) and Dolly de Leon (Ang Naghihingalo, Virgin LabFest 10) portray Lady Fidget. Ces Aldaba (The Natural Phenomenon of Madness, The Grit Project – Outpost Visual Frontier) plays Doctor Quack. Also joining them are comeback actors Francis Mata as Doctor Quack, Aurora Yumul as Old Lady Squeamish; and Regina Mendezona and Yvonne Ricaro as Lucy. Completing the ensemble are Issa Litton (Mga Alaala ng Tag-ulan, CineFilipino) and Karen Gaerlan (The Seagull / Ang Tagak, DUP) as Alithea; Carlo Tarobal (The Seagull, DUP) and Ian Ignacio (Ang Bagong Dugo, 3JS Production) as Harcourt; Brian Arda (Burgos, Heaven’s Best Entertainment) and Sigmund Pecho (Measure for Measure / Hakbang sa Hakbang, DUP) as Dorilant; Michelle Paloma (model and product endorser) and Rizzy Alejandro (Ang Aksidenteng Kamatayan ng Isang Anarkista, Tanghalang Ateneo) as Dainty Fidget; Ron Biñas (Para kay B, UPLB SamaSining), Joanna Lerio (Nanay, Isang Dulang Testimonyal, Urban Crawl) and Chona Fernando (Ang Nerseri, Cinemalaya) alternate as Lady Squeamish; Giancarlo Patelo (Kabugan!, Teatro Tomasino) as Butler; and DUP talent Steven Tansiongco as the Parson.
- Bilingual Actors
The production requires actors to perform on both English and Filipino shows.
- A Female for a Fop and a Male for a Harlot
Asian Film Awardee for Best Supporting Actress Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino portrays Sparkish while actor-director Ron Biñas portrays Lady Squeamish.
- Philippine Premier
It is not easy to make people laugh in a comedy nor make them laugh at the same time think in a satire. How can humor from Europe 339 years ago come across the contemporary audience in Manila? At the same time, how can the Philippine staging push forth the issues raised in the play by Wycherley? Dulaang UP stages this classic work at a time when the country faces its own version of farcical corruption and cultural crumbles. A mother and a baby was awarded as the Philippines hit the 100,000 million population mark this March while the Reproductive Health Bill remains a debate in congress, the civil society and the Catholic Church despite its passage. The case of documented HIV/AIDS has reached 10,000. With 15 million Filipinos in diaspora, many marriages are broken due to separation of families for overseas work. Divorce is not recognized in this country despite justified reasons. Domestic and industrial violence against women and the LGBT community here and abroad continue to promulgate. Recently, the women sector is enraged by lifestyle trademarks with the “rape shirt” merchandize and The Naked Truth Fashion Show where the woman is portrayed as a dog. There is also the Laude-Pemberton transgender slay case that creates tension in the relation between the Philippines and the United States. On one end of the spectrum, Filipinos are being presented with court and congressional dramas on political scams and scandals while bombarded with sexcapades and intimacies of a presidential sister.
- Regaining Dignity
It is important to note that what is interesting in The Country Wife is that after almost two decades of forced hiatus, dramatists and league of actors regained dignity by marking Restoration Comedy in English theater history as well as by asserting the first appearance of women actors onstage and the coming out of women playwrights in the years thereafter. What is interesting is how the play is able to regain the place of theater in the social, cultural and political arena by exhausting onstage the bawdy culture and the commoner’s wits which were previously considered censorious. Here we find the essence of Wycherley’s humor: regaining dignity by exposing the indecency of the hypocrite.
Dulaang UP is now on its 39th Season. The Country Wife/ Ang Misis kong Promdi runs from November 19 to December 7, 2014 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, 2nd floor Palma Hall, University of the Philippines Diliman. For tickets, sponsorships, and show buying inquiries, call Samanta Hannah Clarin or Camille Guevara 926-1349, 433-7840, 981-8500 local 2449 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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