Monday, January 24, 2011

CHASING TOFF: Give Us a Break

No photoGive us a break
CHASING TOFF By Christopher De Venecia (The Philippine Star) Updated January 24, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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The cast of Breakups and Breakdowns — Carla Guevara-Laforteza (Nina), Reuben Uy (Derek), Joel Trinidad (Mark), and Emerita Alcid (Sandy)| Zoom
It was August 1998 or 1999 when actor-comedian, SPIT (Silly People’s Improv Theater) founding member, and Awit-Award nominee Joel Trinidad had a meeting with a guy who was running 30 minutes late. Unfortunately, Joel couldn’t just “up” and leave so he decided to “Up” — start his own theater company called “Up”-start Productions.” Okay, that was a pathetic attempt to match Joel’s wit and humor — a guy I’ve known through the years as someone who always has something fascinating to say.

(Quick anecdote: I remember backstage in a play we did together for Rep. He mentioned to me the term “le mot juste” which means “finding the appropriate word or expression” for what you mean because things don’t always have to boil down to being “good” or “cool.” It’s one of those random things that Joel tended to blurt out but something that stuck with me over the years. Anyway…)
That’s not exactly how you connect the dots between Joel Trinidad and Manila’s newest theater company, Upstart Productions. But barreling through the wait, Joel decided to write a song, tap the musical director of Hong Kong Disneyland, and the rest, they say, is history. (Okay, more on Rony Fortich later, yes, the guy who composed the songs to the show).

“The first song I wrote was about a relationship. And once you start writing about relationships, you realize there’s just so much material to work with,” shares Joel Trinidad who is a 20-year (sometimes 20-year-old) veteran of the stage, having appeared in numerous productions such as The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Avenue Q, The Rocky Horror Show, and the Asian premiere of Rent. He adds, “You’ve got your funny anecdotes, your dates from hell, your broken heart — it’s universal. There’s no end to it.”

But beyond the countless productions and the esteem that an actor of his caliber can pride under his belt, nothing, to this writer, trumps the fact that Joel is probably the only actor in town who can manage to write his own piece of material, produce it, direct it, and take the liberties of starring in it — all in one blow. And it’s a musical for crying out loud — a segment of the performing arts which employs of its practitioners some serious, not-to-be-underestimated triple threat skills. The material? Breakups and Breakdowns.

Mark (Joel Trinidad), a young playwright, is putting the finishing touches to a play about finding that one perfect girl. Derek (Reuben Uy), Mark’s roommate and best friend, thinks that Mark would be better off actually meeting women instead of just writing about them. Derek, a notorious playboy, meets gorgeous and flirtatious Sandy (Emerita Alcid Trinidad) who seems to be the female version of Derek and puts the former in distress. What he doesn’t know is that Sandy is only feigning aloofness to keep Derek interested, as she was too needy, earnest and available in a past relationship. One stormy night, Nina (Carla Guevara-Laforteza) knocks on her ex-boyfriend Mark’s door and the two soon realize that there may be something still going on between them. And then Derek and Sandy arrive unexpectedly which to everyone’s amazement, reacquaints Mark with someone he used to call by another name, back when the latter was a little too needy, a little too earnest, and a little too available.
Reuben Uy, who plays Derek, reveals, “The script is basically Joel’s life. It’s been through a lot of changes but it’s still very current because it’s about everyone’s favorite topic — love.” As you know, there’s no better way to stir the love bug and put the finishing touches to a witty piece of material than to employ some fabulous, well-crafted counterpoints. Enter: Rony Fortich, the brilliant musical director of Hong Kong Disneyland.

Emerita Alcid Trinidad, Joel’s real-life sweetheart who plays Sandy, shares, “Rony did such a wonderful job putting everything together and composing. Joel and Rony really talked about how they wanted their songs to be. It’s a great team.” Rony wrote Breakups and Breakdowns with Joel in 2005 before moving to Hong Kong. The former also wrote the music to Stages’ recent hit, N.O.A.H (No Ordinary Aquatic Habitat).

Carla Guevara-Laforteza, who pays Nina, ends, “It’s a comedy and romantic musical. We all love a little laugh and my God, Joel Trinidad breaking into song, wouldn’t want to look forward to that, right?” (No Carla, it’s not “Right!” It’s “Up!” You know, like “Upstart!” No? I give up. There can only be one Joel Trinidad).

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Breakups and Breakdowns will be showing at Teatrino, The Promenade, Greenhills on the following dates and times: Feb. 18, 19, 25 and 26, March 4, 5, 11 & 12 at 8 p.m.; Feb. 19 and 26, March 5 and 12 at 3 p.m. For ticket inquiries, contact or visit