In Honor of Allegiance and its Closing Weekend
There were many times these past few weeks where I sat down and tried to collect my thoughts about Allegiance. Praising its flawless weaving of a narrative based on WW2 tragedy with hopeless optimism, care, and love. That’s essentially what my critique and reflection on the show boils down to. Somewhere along the way though I felt that what I had to say wasn’t good enough, that it didn’t capture the true heart of the material, and then I realized that there’s no way I could truly replicate that through my writing.
The greatest thing I can say about Allegiance is that it’s a show that leaves you touched and altered in a way that so few shows can do nowadays. Allegiance closes this weekend. And I’m just as sorry that I couldn’t get this out when I saw it a couple of weeks ago as I am that more people won’t be able to witness this treasure.
The phrase ‘diamond in the rough’ is very apt when it comes to describing Allegiance. It’s hard for new shows to break through and truly make their own mark. Not just in sales, not just in the cultural landscape, but in the hearts and minds of the audience viewing it. When you walk into the theater you have no idea what you’re going to get. Yes, you know the show’s about the internment camps in WW2, but there’s so much more to be found under the surface that I think many can miss out on how much fun this show is to watch.
It takes time with Allegiance. The show has a fantastic build to revealing its emotional core. I didn’t know much about the camps in WW2. I knew that they existed and I knew that it was a very heated and difficult time for the people that were subjected to them, but I grew up in Texas so to say that I’m...sheltered when it comes to overall American History is an understatement.
Not only does this show give people the perspective of both Japanese civilians and (later) soldiers in this tough time; we get to see glimpses of the powers that be that forced them into this position. What I enjoy most about the show is that it never pushes the Japanese characters and personalities into the background to explain the other side. Everything is told from the perspective of these disenfranchised people while ALSO keeping an overall perspective on the country’s issues.
It really gives you the whole picture of what everyone was dealing with. It shows you the sides of the people willing to still fight for America and those that felt as if their country had turned its back on them. It doesn’t force you to pick one side or the other; Allegiance intelligently gives the audience the power to face the injustices and pose the question to themselves.
When it all comes down to it this story is about war, love, and loyalty. Not just between the country and its people. Not just between Japanese-American citizens and the nation of Japan. It centers on the close bond between family.
The great George Takei is present in this show, and while he is technically a big part of it, the stars of the show are Lea Salonga and Telly Leung. As Kei and Sammy these two craft a familial relationship that’s not only real, but tragic in and of itself. I don’t want to say too much in order to preserve the integrity of the show, but the war brings out so many tense emotions and passionate scenes between the two that had me torn between what moves were right and wrong.
I can’t say enough good things about Lea Salonga. She truly touched me emotionally and to be able to see her perform live on Broadway is a dream come true for me. Her turn as Kei is a magnificent performance. She does everything with a sense of purpose, meticulous care, and she brings a large amount of compassion to a character that bleeds it. Kei is a fierce and powerful figure in a family that is full of fighters.
She’s the hardened one because in a way she has to be, but it doesn’t make her cold. Instead she’s extremely warm and giving and her happiness and safety is one of the biggest themes of the show. You want this character to have comfort due to the amount of sacrifices she makes to provide comfort to others.
Telly Leung as Sammy is also rife with conflict and purpose. Again, it’s very hard to describe his role in the show because he’s SO central to the story and there’s so much that he goes through that it’d be a crime to lay it all out for you. At the end of the day what I’ll say in regard to him is that he made me second guess a lot of what I would do in this situation.
The way he evolves throughout the show and truly believes in what he’s saying is what makes him heroic. These qualities, however, can also make him foolish. This is what makes Kei’s role in his life so important. She’s the voice of reason, she’s his conscience, but what happens when they’re in a situation with no reason?
Back to George for a second though: He's fantastic in this. Both in his early portions and his later ones. He's such a joy to watch and he made me smile quite a bit before making me cry like a child.
That’s what gets me about Allegiance. It’s a show steeped in such dark and muddy waters, but the heart of it is so full. What I said immediately after Act 1 finished was that the show had managed to charm me and I stand by that statement.
It’s a wonderfully charming show and it truly brings a smile to your face. It has so much authentic emotion and love that when these characters are torn down or apart from each other you FEEL it. The gut-wrenching moments go hand in hand with the heart-warming ones; and neither one of those ever feels out of place.
If you can manage to find a ticket to this show in its final weekend I urge you to do so. I know people have questions about every single historically accurate event in the show, but I want to offer a critique of that thought. When it comes to history in art and theater we must remember one thing: Not everything can be historically accurate, but the historical responsibility to these events is what’s important.
Allegiance doesn’t attempt to cover every single event or location here, but it does the absolute BEST job of conveying those events. It gives everyone a picture of that era, that specific time, and that specific conflict. We as an audience are then tasked with digging deeper and finding even more behind this time; because this show is about more than war.
Allegiance is a story of just that. Not just to one’s country but to their lover, their family, and themselves.
I may not be able to convince you to see the show in time (unless you live in NY and you can rush to get tickets this weekend), but I hope I’ve done enough to show just how important it is. Thank you, Allegiance. The care you put into telling this story has shone through. You’ve crafted a diamond that I’m glad I got to see for myself.