Alamat | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Alamat, Pintig Cultural Group, at the Preston Bradley Center for the Arts. Just as Rodolfo Carlos Vera's central character is divided between his American upbringing and Filipino heritage, so this play suffers a split personality. It's both an enchanting introduction to the myths, music, and movement of the Kalinga tribe in the Philippines and a historical drama intended to expose the difficulties faced by this warrior tribe in particular and by Filipino immigrants to America in general, trying to keep their traditions alive despite war and cultural imperialism.

The play sweeps over an entire century, as one family suffers numerous indignities. They participate in a sideshow-style exhibition at the 1904 world's fair, and later move to America for a better life following World War II only to confront racial prejudice. A son who identifies foremost as an American finds out too late the truth of his family's heritage and his father's hidden strength.

Vera's idea that the past informs the present is valid but not novel. And by pursuing his point over four generations, he dispatches with character interactions that might have made his drama more powerful: each generation's struggle is given short shrift. Some members of Louie Pascasio's large cast bring great conviction to their roles, and all contribute to the buoyancy of the traditional storytelling scenes. But the acting can be uneven, and the play's unfulfilled ambitions ultimately overwhelm Alamat's originality and promise.

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