In every love triangle, at least one person loses. Boy sees girl, a meet-cute ensues, and just when things are ripe for the happily-ever-after, it turns out that girl has boyfriend who is secretly in love with her. Sometimes the wedding just goes on, and sometimes it’s a triumphant exit from the friend zone, but in some cases, it’s just a sad ending for everyone, and nobody wins. Such is the case for the lead characters of Mula sa Buwan, a play adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s classic Cyrano de Bergerac. The French story is transformed by Pat Valera and William Manzano into a Filipino musical for the ages, but this ain’t your standard rom-com, warm-fuzzy-feeling fare. Everybody loves the heartbreak of a tragic hero and an unrequited love, but Valera and Manzano’s version delivers more than just that.
Set in 1940s Manila, the play begins right before World War II. The cast is introduced in a theater — theaterception, if you will — and preparations for a sarswela are underway. The love triangle plays out its introduction, with the lead character Cyrano (played by Nicco Manalo), handsome new-man-in-town Christian (played by Fred Lo, alternating with Edward Benosa), and the love interest Roxane (played by KL Dizon). Cyrano is a cadet with the kind of wit and talent that wins on both Jeopardy and American Idol, and a way with words that could woo all the ladies in town — only thing is, he has a nose that challenges Pinocchio’s, which leaves his self-esteem six feet below the ground. Roxane is Cyrano’s pretty girl-next-door childhood friend, and Christian is handsome and buff (read: hot) but not quite bright. You can probably guess what happens next with this love story and predict it scene-by-scene until the end, but contrary to the famous words of Calvin Harris and Rihanna, this isn’t what you came for.
What makes Mula sa Buwan different from Rostand’s original is its setting amid local history and culture. It explores the milieu right on the cusp of a world war coming to our shores: the anxiety, the optimism, the denial. It brings together the complications of love and war, packaged in relatable Filipino humor and eloquent, buttery words. What’s more is that you’ll find that the themes used in the play are, albeit set in the 1940s, still relevant to the issues we face today. Cyrano and his friends are in search of not just love, but an ideal — acause worth fighting for, a hometown that is progressive yet respectful to the past. In the play, the theater in which the cast is introduced in the first act is turned into a moviehouse by the third — a symbol of what we lose in the name of “progress.”
Mula sa Buwan also commemorates the 75th anniversary of Manila’s invasion by the Japanese during WWII. It reminds us to never forget where we came from and what we’ve been through, and the lives and things we lost in the name of our freedom. If this sounds even just a little like what we’re going through today, well, let it serve as a reminder to study your history books. If anything, what we learn from Cyrano’s pursuits, heartbreak and resolve is that fighting for what’s right is always the right thing to do
Mula sa Buwan is produced by Black Box Productions and will have another run in February 2017. For more information, visit facebook.com/mulasabuwan and blacbox.com