Review: ‘Pueblo Revolt’ by Alter Theater Ensemble (****)

(from L to R) Eduardo Soria and Steven Flores as brothers Freem and Ba’homa in the world premiere of “Pueblo Revolt” by Dillon Chitro.

by Charles Kruger

Reviewed by a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle.

Did you know that, in the year 1680, the Hopi indigenous peoples of New Mexico and Arizona revolted successfully against the Spanish  colonialists and drove them from the land, although the invaders returned a dozen years after? I didn’t. 

In all my years of schooling, I never encountered this one-of-a-kind historical anomaly in all that I learned of American history. The grand figure of the Hopi leader Popé (often spelled “Po’Pay”) is not well known outside the Pueblo. Surprisingly, though, native sculptor Cliff Fragua was able, in 2005, to secure a place for his statue of the rebel leader as one of New Mexico’s two statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol Building. The other is of progressive politician Dennis Chavez, born in 1888, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1936 until his death in 1962, where he stood for the rights of indigenous peoples and helped to establish the Federal Fair Employment Practices Commission. 

You know of him? I didn’t, until doing my research to write this review. 

There is so much that so many North Americans have never heard. We are raised to be deaf to the complex symphony of our history and the role played by indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans, and too-often disillusioned hopeful immigrants as both heroes and victims. We struggle to understand one another. We are a broken nation. 

The restoration of our full history is one of the great works of our time. Until the truth is told and told and told again, our brokenness will never be healed. Our greatness will always be compromised. Our evil will poison our good. 

And so it is that cultural institutions like the Alter Theater take on the work of healing through the arts. And so it is that they bring us this wonderful world premier of Dillon Chitto’s healing surreal history play, “The Pueblo Revolt.”

Obviously, this is an epic story involving thousands of soldiers and complex political and historical content. But Chito chose to present his story obliquely, as a conversation between two native brothers caught up in history. 

Ba’homa (Steven Flores) is the angry older brother, who dreams of rebelling against the Spanish. Freem (Eduardo Soria) is the somewhat goofy younger brother, who is happy in playing the role of alter boy to the Spanish missionary priest, and dreams of the Spanish baker’s handsome son. Freem understands that his people are being oppressed, but he finds it difficult to hate. He has a forgiving, open heart. 

One wonderful thing about this play is that, having settled on these two characters, playwright Chito lets them drive the action. When their conversation turns to gay identity, he lets it happen: to hell with anachronisms. He cares more about the humanity of his brothers than he does about the niceties of his story telling. 

It’s messy, the way the story seems to exist both in history and in the present moment. But then, that’s the point. History continues. We do not live after history, but in it. 

Which is not to say  the play isn’t exciting. The revolt does take place, there is gunfire and battle. It is horrifying. 

But throughout, the boys keep their humor and their perspective. 

“Pueblo Revolt” delivers a fascinating history lesson with love, attention to detail, and a healthy dose of the goofy. Flores and Soria have superb chemistry, and successfully balance the humor and the horror. War isn’t pretty, but laughter and love survive through even the most devastating history. And the story goes on. We can make it better, going forward. 

‘Pueblo Revolt” continues at the Art Research Center at UC Berkeley through February 12th, 2023, then runs Art Works Downtown in San Rafael through February 26,2023. For further information click here.


Rating: **** (For an explanation of Theatrestorm’s rating scale, click here.)


“Pueblo Revolt” by Dillon Chitto. Director: Reed Flores. Stage Manaaer: Frank Cardinale. Producer: Eric Avery. Tribal Liaison: Tanis Parenteau. Sound Design: Frank Cardinale. Graphic Designer: Marcus Trujillo. Installation Design, San Rafael: Cedars Fine Arts Studio. Front of House: Joelle Joyner-Wong. 


Freem Whim: Eduardo Soria. Ba’homa: Steven Flores. 

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