With cinematic precision, Mary Gallagher's De Donde explores the unending flow of illegal immigrants fleeing the economically and politically oppressed countries of Latin America for the perceived freedoms and opportunities of the United States.
Gallagher's work is epic in scope and feel, a drama about Central American refugees in search of the American dream that for some will become reality, but for most will remain just that, a frustrating, elusive hope that may end in deportation and death. And the glory of director Francisco Solarzano's recent production was the way he caught both the cinematic flow and epic sweep of Gallagher's work while at the same time capturing the intimate humanity that is at its core. With stark sets and lighting (Eun-Chung Yoon and Ji-Youn Chang, respectively), and appropriate, less-than-flashy costuming (Lydia Gladstone), Solorzarno created vivid stage pictures that doubled the visceral punch of Gallagher's script. In addition, Solarzarno elicited haunting performances of unusual depth from his huge, and hugely talented, cast. It's not easy to single out a particular performance from the flawless ensemble, but Lorraine Rodriguez, T.S. Joseph, Loretta Guerra Woodruff, and Victoria Malvagno all shone with their own idiosyncratic brilliance.
Of course, since this play was first written and performed (1991), the U.S. has had to re-examine its immigration policies (particularly in light of recent, embarrassing gaffes), which will most likely get even stricter out of necessity. But Gallagher's play remains a searing indictment about larger, humanitarian issues, asking questions that have no easy answers -- not then, certainly not now, and probably not in the near future. And that, allied to an intelligent, no-nonsense production that cut to the heart of the matter, is all that theatre requires in order to be good. Nay, outstanding.
(Also featuring Jeremy Brena, Mark G. Cisneros, Lydia Gladstone, Ruben Luque, Gladys Idelis Nieves, David Rodriguez, Gilberto Ron, Robert Scott, Andre Simmons.)
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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita