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Turning something ancient into one that’s completely futuristic can be confusing and worse, terrible, but not for Director Joey Ting and for his theater company’s maiden production, Sakuntala: Ang Singsing ng Kapalaran.

The play is based on Art Theatre Manila’s (ATM) interpretation of the Allan Palileo-translated, seven-act Sanskrit legend from the Indian epic Mahabharata, written by poet and playwright Kalidasa. The newly-established professional theater company compressed it into two parts for an impressive two-hour stage.

Clever Production Design. This two-level makeshift stage with a tattered oval ring overhead made any possible scene in the play work.

While earlier parts of the the epic – which narrates Emperor Bharata’s genealogy – was written circa 400 BCE, Ting says the story remains relevant even to this day.

“I’m amazed at how this material is so applicable to the contemporary world. The play is about love and justice, issues that should be thoroughly discussed in our present times,” he said in an interview, citing Asian theater’s role to change perspectives in global issues on religion, politics, race, gender, ethnicity, art, among many others.

Set in distant year 2080, the story unfolds in a post-apocalyptic world after a global plague and nuclear weapons damage spare surviving ethnic tribes in the Philippines. It follows the love between Sakuntala, daughter of an unknown deity and is treasured by a peaceful community of hermits, and Dusyanta, a young king of a classified circle whose trademarks are urbanized influences.

The Love of Sakuntala and Dusyanta. A hermitage princess and a king defies all twists and tests to their romance.

While hunting for beasts in the thick forests of the mystical yet devastated islets of Palawan, Dusyanta meets Sakuntala. The two would fall in love and eventually marry but an ill-tempered and powerful sage named Durvasa casts a curse and makes the impregnated Sakuntala lose the ring gifted to her by Dusyanta, erasing his memory of her. How the couple will fair is for the viewers to find out.

Matel Patayon and Chase Salazar alternate as the title character with Paul Cedrick Juan and Vince Pajara as King Dusyanta, respectively.

Cast of Sakuntala: Ang Singsing ng Kapalaran. Art Theatre Manila takes on a Sanskrit legend for their first theater production. Photo by Chris Gallegos.

Other cast members include Gabo Tolentino and Al Angcoy as Madhavya; Rudyard Pesimo and Paul Santiago as Durvasas; Lei Ann Quinquileria, Meggy Katigbak, and Alecks Ambayec as Anusuya; Sarina Sasaki, Tina Macaraeg, and Kyrstynne Vargas as Priyamvada; Jacques Borlaza, and Ric Lorenzo as Canwa; Cristy Peredo as Gautami; Brylle Parzuelo as Samgarava; Nel Gumalog as Saradwata; Edwin Serrano and Neil Tolentino as Cumbilaca; Fritz Esase as Bharata; Anton Segismundo and RM Araneta as Heneral; Warren Grande and Tristan Bite as Sundalo; Ronnie Martinez as Pinunong Ermitanyo; and, Nikulous Aranas as Ermitanyo.

This visually and emotionally arresting piece was put together by talented, experienced and passionate creatives – JM Cabling on choreography, Ohm David on scenography, Gian Gianan on music, Raqs Regalado on costumes and make-up, Meliton Roxas on lighting, D Cortezano on visual effects with Fritz Esase as assistant director, Eudes Anthony Garcia on dramaturg, Chris Gallegos on photography, Darla Dela Cruz on graphics, to name a few – with a vision to showcase outstanding dramatic literatures of Asia including artistic masterpieces of Philippine theater.

“My theater advocacy is to enrich and propagate gems of literary works, both classical and contemporary, nearest to the hearts of Filipino theater goers, especially the first-timers in watching a theater production,” Ting explained.

Meanwhile, ATM’s artistic director and founder said stagings of “Ramayana” from India, “The Injustice Done to Ngo Tu” from china, Akira Kurosawa’s film “Dreams” and Aurelio Tolentino’s “Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas” are currently in the works.

Sakuntala: Ang Singsing ng Kapalaran runs Wednesdays to Fridays from September 27 to October 21 at 3pm and 8pm at Studio 72 Black Box Theater, Kalayaan Ave. Quezon City. Ticket are priced at P1,000 (VIP A), P800 (VIP B) and P500 (Regular). Students get special discounts.

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