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THEATER REVIEW Remember the Alamo
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
2019-03-13

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Playwright: Nick Hart

At: The Neo-Futurist Theatre, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. Tickets: neofuturists.org; $25 ( pay-what-you can Thursday nights ). Runs through: April 27

Here's a world premiere that brings fresh meaning to the phrase "Tex-Mex." As they've done before, the Neo-Futurists have taken an historic event and riffed on it in highly personal ways. It isn't about the Battle of the Alamo itself, but about the mythology of the Alamo and what it means today to the mostly Mexican-American performers of this work—chiefly actor Nick Hart, who created the show.

The characters include historic Alamo figures William Travis ( Hart ), Davey Crockett ( Steven Edward Mosqueda ), Jim Bowie ( Nancy Casas ) and Gen. Santa Anna ( Brenda Arellano ), and the work offers much carefully researched factual information about them, very little of it flattering. British musician/activist Phil Collins ( Hal Baum ) also is a character and the butt of many jokes. Do most people know that Collins is obsessed with The Alamo? Does it matter?

Much more pertinently, Remember the Alamo highlights memories and impressions from the actors about growing up with an ethnically mixed heritage, in racially charged neighborhoods and with conflicting understandings about Alamo events. How many of us have ever considered the 1835-36 Texas Rebellion as a movement by white landowners to maintain slavery—which Mexico had abolished—and not pay taxes to the Mexican government? Being a work about Mexico and Texas, it also reflects America's current false emergency over border security and immigration, and is shot through with a streak of barely concealed violence, often treated comically.

Remember the Alamo uses entertainment and amusement ( not the same ) to make you think. Typical of the Neo-Futurists, it's funny, exceptionally quirky, ingenious, messy in a literal sense ( eggs, beer, confetti, soda-pop liberally tossed about ), semi-improvised, audience-interactive and perhaps a tad too much of an inside joke ( the Phil Collins stuff ). As directed by Kurt Chiang, it never loses energy and its messages never become heavy, although it doesn't quite know when it's over and goes on about 10 minutes too long ( especially if it begins 15 minutes late, as it did the night I saw it ). The design elements, especially the projections by Parker Langvardt and lighting by Jorge Silva, add a lot to the production.

Remember the Alamo is a great show for theatergoers who want to sample something less mainstream than usual, in an atmosphere that seems spontaneous and about to go out-of-control, but never does. Few shows manage to stitch together George Patton's pearl-handled pistol, the Bowie Knife, Phil Collins and East LA memories, but this one does. It's kinda-sorta what my generation used to call "a happening" back when we were the young ones. This could be the start of a series for the Neo-Futurists—Remember the "Maine," Remember Pearl Harbor—about violent events that got us into war. Or maybe not.


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