During this spectacle, two white people taking part in the exhibition observe the tribe: a German fraulein, Sarah Metcalfe (Yvonne Jung), and an Irish fop, J.B. (Paul Buckner). Unfortunately for the audience, the under-written script never clearly explains who J.B. and Sarah are; if not for their stereotypical national accents (Ms. Jung pulls it off, Mr. Buckner struggles mightily), the audience wouldn't be able to place them at all.
Balikas falls for Sarah, ignoring his tribal wife in the process. Around the same time, the tribe members are deciding they have been duped. In the throes of lust, Balikas fails to take notice. At the end of Act One, he and Sarah stroll through the fair and see a couple of Asian dwarfs performing a "cultural number." Balikas throws the Asian couple some coins and they do their number for him--a high-pitched squeal of a song. Then the Asian dwarfs throw coins at Balikas, who delights them by doing his own cultural number. Balikas then throws coins at Sarah, who, being a good sport, does her own cultural dance. This scene is one of the play's only expressions of an original sense of irony. The characters realize the absurdity of their plights--the fact they are all considered freaks to an extent--but still have some fun.
After sicknesses and a death sweep through the World Exposition, the Bontoc pack up and go home. Balikas stays in order to find the man responsible for the death of one of his tribesman. (In Bontoc lore, a tribesman's soul can't go to heaven unless his murder has been avenged.) Balikas finds that Mr. Edwards, the explorer, is responsible and confronts him, avenging his tribesman.
By this time, however, Balikas has fallen far. He is dressed like a Native American and goes by a nom du circus that has nothing to do with his real Filipino identity. He encounters a white woman, Hedjaanta (Yvonne Jung in another role), a showgirl who is supposed to be from the Philippines. There is a sense of cultural irony here--two people from different cultures playing the parts of people from still different cultures. But for some reason, this irony does not hit home. However, in another of the show's (few) highlights, Jung does a dead-on impersonation of parrot--a piece of very strong acting that, perhaps not-coincidentally, doesn't rely on the written script.
In the end, the tribe is reunited back in the Philippines, and lessons are learned. But as the show's epilogue suggests, the world only repeats itself. In a clever scene, the cast is now in the year 2000. The white characters play American tourists in some Asian country snapping pictures of "the locals," and the Asian characters play tribes-people pandering for tourist money. The ignorant White Man and the once-innocent tribesmen are back in their unhappy embrace.
The play is not helped by a very sparse set by Mio Infante. There are dull, white curtains--for everything! Chris Dallos' lighting is also weak, adding little to the already small Grove Street Theater stage. The costume design by Christianne Myers is quite nice. But unfortunately for the Ma-Yi Theater Company, nice costumes cannot cover up a flawed script.