Can a new theater company make its mark and develop audience patronage by staging plays that touch on suicide and depression?
For its second offering, Twin Bill Theater presents this second-half of rainy July Suicide, Incorporated (SI), which deals with men who want to end their own lives or have succeeded to do so.
For the company’s debut last year, it presented Dog Sees God (DSG) which ended with the lead character committing suicide, and the rest of the characters mourning his untimely death and regretting how nasty or apathetic they had been to him.
Steven Conde directs the company’s second production like the first. Staging SI seems to be his brainchild as he confided in the production’s information materials that he himself had to cope with clinical depression for some years.
Obviously, Conde’s two main producers, the twin brothers Francis and Joseph Matheu, liked the idea of mounting a play about suicide as the company’s second offering.
The twins are both theater artists. Francis is an actor-choreographer who created the dance moves for 9 Works Theatrical’s The Wedding Singer and acted in the plays of Repertory Philippines, Gantimpala, UP Playwrights Theater, and other companies.
Joseph is a well-established lighting director who, of course, took charge of the lighting of DSG. He worked with the lighting department of The Bourne Legacy during its filming here, though he has been working as lighting director of the noontime TV show Eat Bulaga. He has also directed lighting for the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). He actually started in theater as an actor, specifically at Trumpets, where Francis also began in their teens. Joseph is older than Francis just by a few minutes, although the latter joined theater a little ahead of the latter.
Both DSG and SI are straight plays in English and each one has only a handful of characters. They are easier and less expensive to produce than the musicals that the big and established companies are fond of staging these days. It’s reasonable for a start-up small company like Twin Bill to get into straight plays that have only a few characters.
It would be silly of Twin Bill to compete with, say, Resorts World, Repertory Philippines, Stages/Trumpet, or even with the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Pilipino, and the almost 50 years old PETA. However, Twin Bill may be said to be in competition with companies that are also into straight plays with small casts, such as Bart Guingona’s Actors’ Actors/The Necessary Theater, the three-year-old Red Turnip, the barely one-year-old Egg Theater Company of George de Jesus III, and Artists’ Playground which is mainly identified with actor-director Roeder Camanag and musical director Jessie Lucas.
Suicide, Inc. is a 2010 tragicomedy by celebrated off-Broadway playwright Andrew Hinderaker. The plot revolves mainly around the owner, two employees, and a client of Legacy Letters, a company that makes money by drafting or editing suicide notes of clients, most of whom turn out to be males.
Hans Eckstein, Jeremy Domingo, Mako Alonzo, George Schulze, Bibo Reyes, and Chito Veguillas make up the all-male cast.
Conde is a newcomer director whose primary experience is acting, just like most theater directors in the country. SI is only his second directorial job. His first one, DGD, though, was impressive and well reviewed. It had a cast much younger than that of SI. After all, it dealt with high school students and was a take-off from Charlie Brown, the iconic comic story by Charles Schulz.
Conde started acting with Chancel Repertory Theatre in 1999. Some of his theater credits include Trumpets’ The Little Mermaid and The Bluebird of Happiness; and Atlantis Production’s staging of Disney’s Aladdin, The Full Monty, Ghost The Musical, and Shrek The Musical.
The play will be staged at a newly opened venue, Performing Arts and Recreation Center at 194 Lt. Artiaga St., San Juan City. You may check out Twin Bill Theater’s Facebook page for ticket discounts and other details.
He and Francis said during the press preview that there will likely be mental health professionals in the audience throughout the staging of the play, and they will conduct an an open forum with the audience about mental health and suicidal tendencies.
“We really would like people to be open to talk about things and issues that somehow make them think about taking their lives. We would like them to meet and remember some mental health professionals they can go to and talk with when they begin to feel they can’t handle life anymore,” concluded Conde.