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Mahal at Bailiwick Chicago: Theater review

Danny Bernardo's new family drama examines family, identity and love in a globalized, interconnected and constantly interrupted world.

 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
1/5
Photograph: Michael Brosilow

Jillian Jocson, Patrick Byrnes,Blair Robertson,Kevin Matthew Reyes,Kate GarassinoandJoseph Anthony Foronda in Mahal at Bailiwick Chicago

 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
2/5
Photograph: Michael Brosilow

F. Karmann Bajuyo,Kate GarassinoandKevin Matthew Reyes in Mahal at Bailiwick Chicago

 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
3/5
Photograph: Michael Brosilow

Patrick Byrnes,Kate GarassinoandKevin Matthew Reyes in Mahal at Bailiwick Chicago

 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
4/5
Photograph: Michael Brosilow

Patrick ByrnesandKevin Matthew Reyes in Mahal at Bailiwick Chicago

 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
5/5
Photograph: Michael Brosilow

Jillian Jocson, Patrick Byrnes,Blair Robertson,Kevin Matthew Reyes,Kate GarassinoandJoseph Anthony Foronda in Mahal at Bailiwick Chicago

Bailiwick’s Mahal, penned by resident playwright Danny Bernardo, examines family, identity and love in our globalized, interconnected and constantly interrupted world. The new play focuses on the Reyes family as its members deal with the recent loss of their matriarch. Prodigal son Mikey (Kevin Matthew Reyes) has turned his back on his family and heritage, captured in his rebellion against his older brother Jun (F. Karmann Bajuyo) and father Roberto (Joseph Anthony Foronda). Mari (Kate Garassino) struggles to keep the family together through their conflicting modes of grieving.

The questions that strike at the heart of the play (How can love be expressed? How do we define it?) are explored through the lens of a Filipino-American family, but feel universal during a time in which the nature of relationships in our society is being widely challenged. Many members of the audience will relate to the use of cell phones in the play which, as in life, provide both distraction and competition for focus for the characters onstage. But Mahal isn’t so much about the technology itself but how our need for connection gets channeled through it. It occasionally veers too far into the sentimental, but the play’s characters, brought to life by Bailiwick’s solid ensemble, come together to form a believably complicated and likable portrait of a contemporary family. 

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