|Bobby Costanzo and Eileen Galindo|
Photo by Ed Krieger
Ian McRae’s THE ALAMO, currently at The Ruskin Group Theatre at the Santa Monica Airport; directed by Kent Thompson was inspired by an op ed piece in the New York Times that sparked McRae's response to the “lies about WMD” and the subsequent war in Iraq. McRae’s strong polemic evokes the past and what seems to be an inevitable future for the long established Alamo Bar in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.
Through the fourth wall, Joey (Bobby Costanzo) recalls his days of being a New York City cop and the subsequent hate that overwhelms him from time to time. He spouts angry alt-right rhetoric as we get to know the sundry denizens of The Alamo. Having lost his brother in Vietnam, Joey laments the drug bust that he eventually acknowledges led to his brother's service in the army instead of serving a couple of years in the slammer. “He shoulda done the time.” More wounds are revealed as we meet the cast and dig deeper into neighborhood lore.
Munce (Tim True) and Carmen, his wife (excellent Eileen Galindo) own The Alamo. Carmen reminds, “It’s a business!” Time for some changes: a new paint job and the revision of the name to suit the new neighbors: hipsters, poets and artists. She is considering The Poplar Tree (which refers in a gentrified way to what “Alamo” translates to in English.) Plans for entertainment and fancy drinks are waiting in the wings.
In a parallel story we meet Mary (Milica Govich) and her rebellious daughter, Micaela (spot on Kelsey Griswold). Munce and Carmen are long time friends of Mary and god parents to Micaela. Micaela’s dad, was lost that terrible day, September 11, 2001. The wounds are closing... but very slowly. Mary volunteers at the 9/11 Memorial which Micaela denounces as a "sewage treatment plant." Guilt drives Mary to do her best to keep some memory of her husband alive. Micaela plans to move forward with her own life and encourages her mother to do the same. A beautifully moving “chat” with her dead father reveals that it’s not such a bad idea.
Joey rants and notes his brother’s picture has been removed for repainting the interior of the bar to change the atmosphere to welcome the gentrified tide on the horizon.
An unnecessary third story involving the lone Mets fan (in heavy Yankees territory), Tick (Jack Merrill) and his frantic wife, Claudine (over the top Nancy Georgini) expands their personal tragedy onto a side track that might be better examined in another story all together.
John Lacey appears as Dominic, another long time pal and patron of The Alamo.
We return again and again to Joey’s story; rubbing away his hate, polishing his "worry stone" given to him by a therapist to help deal with his anger issues that entwine with the unwelcome changes at The Alamo. His contrary feelings expand to his hatred of John Lennon and all that John and Yoko stood for: celebrated, while his brother and American soldiers were falling in Vietnam. Highlights of his drunken encounter with the “Imagine” mosaic in Central Park and later, his heroic actions on December 8, 1980 at The Dakota in Manhattan are perfectly delivered and ultimately make Joey a Human being: worthy of our appreciation in spite of his angry reaction to the way the world is turning.
John Iacovelli's multi-functional set brings the play home simply and realistically.
More moments of irony and levity might better balance this somewhat over written piece. The world is changing, whether we like it or not.
THE ALAMO by Ian McRae
A World Premiere
The Ruskin Theatre
3000 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Opened Friday, February 24th
Continues Fridays – Saturday at 8pm,
Sundays at 2pm through March 31, 2018
Tickets are $30 ($25 for students,
seniors, and guild members)
Ample free parking available on site