Stark raving mad: Red Concepcion, joined by Jaimedel Mundo, Tami Monsod, and Miguel Faustmann | Zoom
At 25, Red Concepcion has achieved for his age what others have simply dreamed of at the onset of their theater careers. Having played a bevy of fascinating roles on the legitimate repertory stage, Red has played a willing and gracious host to the likes of Dino del Canto in Repertory Philippines’ Romeo and Bernadette, Mark in Altar Boyz for which he was nominated for a Philstage Gawad Buhay Award; A-Rab in Stages’ West Side Story that top-billed the likes of Joanna Ampil, Karylle and Christian Bautista; and Aldervesin in Dulaang UP’s celebrated masterpiece, Orosman and Zafira.
“Every play I’ve ever done has a special place in my heart,” quips Red, who is currently playing the lead, Allan Strang, in Repertory Philippines’ Equus.
“Cheesy but true! It’s like asking me to choose between my left and right eye,” he stresses when faced with the possibility of having to choose just one role to sum up the totality of his blossoming theater career.
For Red’s latest endeavor, he plays Allan Strang, a curious young boy and a role played by Daniel Radcliffe on the Great White Way. A troubled young man who blinds six horses, Allan is forced to meet with a psychiatrist, masterfully portrayed in the Philippine version by Miguel Faustmann.
“He’s so much fun to be around — very instinctive and generous as an actor. I’m literally in awe of the guy,” shares Red of the stage veteran.
A psychological drama-slash-thriller, Equus pits Red, whose acting credits also include Hairspray, Into the Woods and Hamlet, against the complexity of Allan’s character, to the point that it compels the psychiatrist to question his own existence in the end. Though Red eventually found himself comfortably filling the shoes of Allan, of course, under the tutelage of the talented Audie Gemora, according to him, it was no picnic getting to the end result.
“One of the problems I had was that I was too settled (in the role). They kept telling me that madness has a certain electricity that I needed to get in order to play Allan. So there was little physical adjustment.” More than that, Audie asked him to appear more impulsive and unpredictable each time — something that compelled Red to consistently up his game.
The actor adds, “I like to challenge myself in every way. West Side was a challenge because of the choreography, Sweeney was a musical one, and Hairspray was a test of stamina and focus. When I got wind that Rep was doing Equus, I knew I had to try out. I knew that it was going to stretch me as an actor.”
Of course, mass media would put it that Equus became all about the famous nude scene that kept the World Wide Web atwitter when Daniel Radcliffe a.k.a. Harry Potter agreed to shed his clothes on Broadway. Was there any such trepidation on Red’s part? He retorts, “Of course, it’s a given. But I just kept thinking I would cross the bridge when I get there. When I finally had to strip, there really was nothing to worry about after all. The scene is done very tastefully,” he adds.
On the prospect of being compared to his alternate, newcomer Marco Manalac, he says, “Marco and I both worked really hard on this play. We came up with quite distinct Allans, filtered through our own experiences and truths. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.” He is quite proud of what they had both created in synergy with director Audie Gemora. Red says, “Audie encourages creativity. He knew what he wanted but he was open enough to let you create on your own.”
In five years, Red sees himself still doing theater, and would someday like to play the lead player in Pippin, Bobby in Company, and Sweeney in Sweeney Todd. But for curiosity’s sake, as Allan has obviously this weird relationship going on with horses, I had to ask. How would you describe your perfect horse?
“As a kid, I used to watch this TV series based on the classic book The Black Beauty. There was a sleek black stallion and the image of that horse galloping through the field, mane whipping in the wind, has stuck with me all these years.” Neigh- sayer, years later, who would have known?