REVIEW: Playwright C.E. Gatchalian's BROKEN,
explores the broken tangents in relationships
Meta.for Theatre Society and Broken
in association with the
Firehall Arts Centre
Five Plays by C. E. Gatchalian
Directed by Sean
Starring Tanja Dixon-Warren, Michael Fera, Ntsikie Kheswa, Thrasso Petras, and Nelson
March 2-11, 2006 (Preview March
The Firehall Arts
Tuesday to Saturday, 8 pm:
Friday to Saturday, 8 pm:
Wednesday, March 1 (preview), 8 pm:
Wednesday, March 8, 1 pm:
Sunday, March 5, 2
Tickets and info: (604)
Broken, currently playing at the Firehall Arts Centre,
is a suite of five separately written one act plays, brought together
by overlapping themes of dysfunctional relationships that explore
alienation, love, repression, denial, and sexual identity. Motifs
and Repetitions is C.E. Gatchalian's first play, and was initially
performed for the Bravo! channel in 1997, and also on the Knowledge
Network in 1998. For Broken, it is combined with the single act plays Diamond, Ticks, Hands and Star.
Combined together, it is strong, hard hitting and sometimes confusing
journey into a world of sexual identity, and its effects on the personal and
the interpersonal. He is the first Filipino-Canadian to be
nominated for major literary award, the Lambda award in 2004, for the play collection Motifs and Repetitions and Other Plays.
witness a Gatchalian play, is to be moved by the lyricism and the
poetics of the language. It is a constructed creature with themes
characters juxtapositioned to create dynamic lines of
tension. Special attention is placed on the rhythm and
repetition of words, more like lines of music, combined with themes and
variations. One is
equally aware of what is not being spoken, as what is being
spoken. The stories unfold like crumpled pieces of paper,
revealing complex spontaneous confessionals, not simple gift-wrapped
pretty linear stories.
Motifs and Repetitions, explores a love triangle with unexpected twists. The dialogue starts off tentative and hesitant,
as a couple gets to know each other on a first date. It shifts
gears as a third person is revealed to be already involved. The
language becomes short and terse, short syllables alternating between
the actors like a rotating word play game. Actors Ntsikie
Kheswa, Thrasso Petras
and Nelson Wong, do a splendid job conveying the tensions between the
relationships bringing subtle body language cues to interplay with
In Hands, actors Tanja
Dixon-Warren and Michael Fera exchange a series of monologues, that
reveal the spoken and unspoken issues in their relationship. At
first tender, then explosive, emotions touch on the uncomfortable ways
that people repress and hide their feelings, rationalizing them away in
organized boxes that allow them to survive their disappointments and
failures. The tension in the audience is thick, like being caught
in the ugly moment of somebody else's family secret… which it
is. A third person, actor Thrasso Petras, enters the scene,
unspeaking… but “speaking” volumes about the family secret and
the family dynamics. Tanja Dixon-Warren's monologues and acting
are strong enough to carry all the action and unfolding storyline.
Diamond, Star, and Ticks, are one person vehicles where Ntsikie
Kheswa, Nelson Wong, and Thrasso Petras, each explore different aspects of alternative sexual identities. Ticks
is the most interesting, where Petras plays a fast talking gigolo who
brings a plague upon a city. Petras creates a strong stage
presence, his voice filling his performance with an nervous urgency, as
his character describes his environment and his relationship to
it. Wong and Kheswa are also both interesting to watch but Wong and displays good confidence and watchability. All moved easily in and out of their roles.
Sean Cummings directed C.E. Gatchalian's Crossings,in
2004, and performs the honours for Broken as well. Throughout
of the work, the attention is riveting. The performers bring
voice and dynamic tension to the works. However there were
noticeable lags in Diamond, where actor Ntsikie
Kheswa moves between different locations on stage, with different
lighting cues, meant to reveal different aspects of a character and the
demands on an actor.
Playwright Gatchalian has achieved the ability to be thought provoking,
while creating a inside view and commentary on social conditions.
The works of Samuel Beckett came to mind for me, expecially
with the examples of unspoken thoughts between the spoken words.
exciting. Good thing I loved “Waiting for Godot” and studied both
music, modern art and drama. Maybe it is in this juxtaposition of
music, modern art and drama where Gatchalian is most comfortable
pushing the boundaries of unconventional storytelling. This
should play well to lovers of European modern drama, such as Checkov
and Brecht, and maybe even local fans of Vancouver playwright Morris
Panych, whose work “My Aunt, Your Aunt” was recently booked into the
Firehall Arts Centre by Theatre Around the Corner, a Czech and Slovak community theatre in Vancouver..
BROKEN is not for the easily offended or the unwilling to explore
personal challenges. It is a showcase for writing and
acting. There are mostly powerful and interesting moments.
Sometimes “comfort buttons” are pushed beyond comfort zones, but
otherwise there are brillian use of themes and repetitions, just like
in musical composistions. Upon learning that Gatchalian was once
a musical prodigy, whose path later found itself graduating from the
UBC Creative Writing Program, I wonder what it will be like if C.E.
Gatchalian at some point writes an opera. Or maybe it will be a
suite of 5 one act separate operas. No doubt, it will be
inventive in form and brilliant in language and rhythm.