Theater review by Alex Huntsberger
Soft-rock icon Phil Collins plays a surprisingly central role in Remember the Alamo, Nick Hart’s moving if messy meditation on Mexican-American identity. Played with an amusingly atrocious accent by the droll Hal Baum, the Genesis singer-drummer and all-odds defier is one of the play’s central figures, alongside Alamo commanders William B. Travis (Hart) and James Bowie (Nancy Casas), Mexican dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna (Brenda Arellano) and noted bear killer Davy Crockett (Steve Mosqueda). This being a Neo-Futurists production, the show is an effervescently self-aware combination of elements: sketches, musical numbers, pop-culture references, shadow puppetry and personal stories from the performers, to name a few. Although it poses initially as a recreation of the Battle of the Alamo—one that Hart threatens will last a full 13 days—its focus is not on 19th-century history. The Alamo provides structure, iconography and a sense of childlike play (it’s less a fortress than a bouncy castle), but the play is more interested in creating space for the thoughts and experiences of its Mexican-American cast members.
One of the joys of Neo-Futurist joints is their riotously funny free-associative flow, but director Kurt Chiang brings just enough order to the troupe’s chaotic id. The show makes great use of projections from Parker Langvardt, playing them off the live performers in moments of comedy and pathos. Remember the Alamo eventually begins to buckle under its own nearly two-hour length; a running bit where audience members are asked to leave the theater and are then declared dead fumbles its payoff, and the promised final battle feels like a mix of theatrical elements in search of a purpose. Happily, the winning cast is equally adept at farce and introspection; Hart’s peevish take on an artistic visionary is especially spot-on. Remember the Alamo may be less than the sum of its parts, but there are so many good parts that it's hard to complain.
The Neo-Futurists. Created by Nick Hart. Directed by Kurt Chiang. With Hart, Brenda Arellano, Hal Baum, Nancy Casas, Steve Mosqueda. Running time: 1hr 50mins. No intermission.