We’ve Battled Monsters Before is a masterful exploration of Filipino identity, spiritualism and folklore. A musical in-production directed by Mathew Wright, We’ve Battled Monsters Before follows siblings Diego (Justin Huertas) and Adarna (Rheanna Atendido) throughout several significant moments of their relationship and lives.
Written by Huertas, there is an impressive balance of drama and comedy. In particular, the banter between siblings was simply endearing, never going so far as to upset the tone and pacing of the story.
There are so many intricate aspects of We’ve Battled Monsters Before, that continually impressed me throughout the 90 minutes. The show could accurately be described as a non-linear musical, jumping from moment to moment with extremely fast transitions. The exposition is delivered in such a way, however, that all of these transitions between time-period and location are seamless.
I cannot praise director Mathew Wright enough in his ability to use a set to its fullest. The actors are constantly moving, picking up new instruments, and conveying impossible situations with creative blocking. This is a show that trusts in its audiences’ collective imagination.
This is exemplified by Justin Huertas playing both Diego, and the siblings’ Lola. Huertas switches between these two extremely differing performances several times within a scene, without it becoming distracting.
Rheanna Atendido’s performance as Adarna clearly comes from such a genuine and honest place, that you cannot help but love every moment she is onstage. Further, her vocal performance in particular was amazing throughout.
An additional aspect of We’ve Battled Monsters Before that was continuously impressive was Ryan Dunn’s lighting. Although the set was very simple, the use of color made each scene feel like a completely foreign environment. Dunn truly went above and beyond in the thought and care made put into each transition.
Overall, there is an impressive variety within the instruments and lyrical choices between the different songs. Huertas is able to explore diverse issues of adolescence, identity and familial relationships for second-generation immigrants through a light-hearted mythical story. As a second-generation immigrant myself, it was refreshing to see these themes explored without any pretense or over-indulgence. Because of the personal, intimate nature of this story, it is conversely more universal.
See We’ve Battled Monsters Before at ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery, NOV 26 – DEC 26 2021
Tickets Available At: https://www.artswest.org/theatre-plays/weve-battled-monsters-before/