Ibong Adarna is a Philippine classic tale about Don Juan and his adventures in search of the magical bird, the Ibong Adarna. Don Juan’s father, the King, is very ill and the only hope for his healing is for him to hear the Ibong Adarna’s song. Don Juan’s two eldest brothers searched first for the bird but failed. When Don Juan found the bird, he also found and brought home his brothers. Don Juan saved his father and it made his brothers jealous. In the second part of the play, the brothers released the bird and pushed Don Juan down a well. The world beneath the well, Don Juan saved two princesses from imprisonment and brought them back to her brothers even though bought princesses were in love with him. He was pushed again to the well and there he found Donya Maria’s kingdom. He faced many challenges for her hand in marriage.
After winning her father’s favour, Don Juan brought Donya Maria back to their kingdom where they faced their final challenge. In one of my major classes, DUP’s playwright of Ibong Adarna sat in for an interview. He mentioned that the simplistic paper setting of the play was to signify a major theme that DUP wanted to employ—that their re-enactment of Ibong Adarna is just a story and not meant to be taken as a real event being acted out. The constant changing of the characters’ actors and the listing of all the characters at the beginning of the play support the theme they are trying to employ. Unlike the previous DUP plays I watched, Ibong Adarna has a strong theme of post-modernism in terms of re-telling of old stories. Ibong Adarna was set to the pre-colonization period because of the kingdoms and princes. However, that can’t be certain since many objects in the play also signified that it can be a made-up time in Philippine history. But having a stethoscope and an electric shock machine as medical equipments, as well as a modern-looking wheelchair for the king, is surely out of time.
And of course, no one can forget the sequence when Don Juan fought the seven-headed snakes with a referee as a commentator to their battle is a whole new take on how their battle went down. The way the play used this post-modern tools were surely humorous and awakened the viewers from an old view of an old tale. However, around second part of the play when Don Juan was in the Crystal Kingdom, it wasn’t as interesting as the first parts of the play. They were already boring, not to mention the endless tasks of the king for Don Juan. The playwright himself admitted that he got lazy at this point of the play because the director kept denying many of his ideas. But the play managed to get itself back on the audience’s attention during the big confrontation of Don Juan and his princesses. There was a tension in the crowd when Donya Maria arrived at Don Juan’s wedding. Even though there were some low points of the play, the character’s adventures and feelings have managed to make their way to the audience’s hearts. The audience even clapped when Donya Leonora slapped Don Juan hard on the face. And I even shed a tear myself when Donya Leonora released her heart’s pain through words when Don Juan chose Donya Maria. All in all, it was a heart-warming play for the general public and DUP managed to put a new look on an old tale.