Review: THE ALAMO Proves the Only Way to Survive Any Battle is to Never Surrender Your Self

Review: THE ALAMO Proves the Only Way to Survive Any Battle is to Never Surrender Your Self

During their second decade of bringing Los Angeles audiences outstanding entertainment, Ruskin Group Theatre continues to celebrate the essence of arts and humanity within the microcosm of theatre, always supporting new writers and the development of new plays as an important part of the Ruskin season. And ever since I discovered this "hidden gem" of a theater on the Westside, I have been sure to attend as many performances as possible due to the quality of casting and technical brilliance on display in such an intimate space. Such is the case in THE ALAMO, a world premiere play by Ian McRae, directed by Kent Thompson, which has been so popular at the Ruskin that performances have been selling out for months.

Neighborhood bars have always been a gathering place for locals to share drinks and camaraderie in a place far from the responsibilities of work and home life, or in spite of them. Review: THE ALAMO Proves the Only Way to Survive Any Battle is to Never Surrender Your SelfFans of the popular TV show "Cheers" no doubt remember how hanging out in a place where "everyone knows your name" often seemed better than anywhere else in your life. McRae's new play takes place in the blue-collar Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn in a rundown neighborhood institution called THE ALAMO, which its patrons refer to as the last great American bar. But times change and so do neighborhoods, and McRae paints a humorous yet heartbreaking portrait of eight working class Bay Ridge natives who always seem to find themselves on the front lines of change in America, even in their favorite hangout.

Review: THE ALAMO Proves the Only Way to Survive Any Battle is to Never Surrender Your SelfTaking place in modern day Brooklyn, which has fast become a neighborhood of upwardly mobile, young professionals with entertainment dollars to spend, the only hope for The Alamo's long-suffering owners, married couple Munce and Carmen (Tim True and Eileen Galindo) to keep the place afloat is to update the bar into a local entertainment destination for the new Bay Ridge locals. True and Galindo are a remarkable duo who realistically share their love and financial struggles with the audience, with Galindo allowing us to see Carmen's incredibly warm and caring heart for all those in need of a shoulder to cry on. But don't you dare cross or disappoint her unless you are ready to get a good earful of her Brooklyn "take no prisoners" attitude!

But of course, Bay Ridge locals and The Alamo regulars don't want to surrender their bar, much less their neighborhood, to these young neo-carpetbaggers without a fight. Review: THE ALAMO Proves the Only Way to Survive Any Battle is to Never Surrender Your SelfThis is especially true for former cop Joey (the brilliantly and totally natural Bobby Costanzo), the long-time #1 patron whose racist and sexist opinions set the tone inside the place. His off-color rants are often based on the difference between how generations expressed their opinions during the Vietnam War, in which he lost his beloved brother, and the Iraq War, with his greatest anger directed at those who he feels have dishonored our veterans. It's a deep-seated personal war within Joey's psyche that Costanzo expertly displays from moment to moment each time he takes the stage.

Review: THE ALAMO Proves the Only Way to Survive Any Battle is to Never Surrender Your SelfPerhaps the most revealing monologue performed with sincere, heartfelt perfection by Costanzo centers on Joey's description of the night John Lennon died when he was the cop assigned to accompany the singer to the hospital during his last few moments of life. The dichotomy of his caring professional attitude as opposed to his personally disrespectful opinion of the singer's political views, reveals more about Joey than almost any other scene in the play.

Other long-time Bay Ridge locals include Mary (Milica Govich), Review: THE ALAMO Proves the Only Way to Survive Any Battle is to Never Surrender Your Selfa 9/11 widow of a man with financial ties to the Alamo, and her "so smart she ought to be in college" daughter Micaela (sharing the role as Kelsey Griswold and Julia Arian), who prefers to be her own boss and has been hired by Munce, her godfather, to paint the inside of The Alamo to appeal to the new, younger generation of patrons. Secrets revealed along the way about her father, as well as Joey's brother and the real affection between Joey and Carmen, let us see how hiding the truth wastes not only time but changes the motivation which drives your life.

Other long-time bar patrons are portrayed by John Lacy as Dominic, Review: THE ALAMO Proves the Only Way to Survive Any Battle is to Never Surrender Your Selfa former trash collector who shares several gritty and eye-opening route stories, and Jack Merrill as Tick, a diabetic trying his best to not drink while hiding his secret dating life from his friends and family, especially his wife. The first hint of this is shared when Dom grabs Tick's cell phone to stop his constant texting. And other than the brutally bitter reaction of his wife Claudine (Nancy Georgini who commands the stage in her one scene with Galindo as Carmen), it is the overwhelming love and respect of his friends that keeps Tick from ending his life after his secret is discovered.

Touching on themes of nativism, racism, and war, Ian McRae's shares, "I wrote this play because I was angry about the way we became involved in war with Iraq, and lies about the WMD's. Ultimately, who picks up the tab for the mistakes that our foolish leaders continue to make? I was hoping it could add something to a conversation about how we can find ways to treat each other better."

Review: THE ALAMO Proves the Only Way to Survive Any Battle is to Never Surrender Your SelfDirector Kent Thompson succinctly shares his vision of the play: "The Alamo is an authentic and touching portrayal of an Italian-American neighborhood in Brooklyn. Both funny and dramatic, it features vivid characters whose lives haven't turned out quite the way that they had hoped. Each of them carries scars of the past (from Vietnam to 9/11, and choices long gone) as they fight for their place in a world under the assault of millennial gentrification."

And thanks to his brilliant direction and McRae's incredibly well drawn characters expertly performed by an outstanding cast, once you see THE ALAMO you will have no doubt as to why performances are selling out. Get your tickets ASAP.

THE ALAMO continues at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm through April 29, 2018, produced by John Ruskin and Michael Myers at the Ruskin Group Theatre, located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $27 - $30 and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com. Free parking available on site.



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