Tuesday, February 26, 2019

America Adjacent (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

The Skylight Theatre has a reputation for "topical" plays that generally stay away from becoming pure polemics, telling the audience what to do and how to think or feel.
America Adjacent by Boni B. Alvarez follows up on this.  Yes, it decries cruelty and inhumanity--and I hope down to my soul such is not seen as some kind of agenda to stir suspicion--but it offers no solutions, no policies, no proposed legislation, no political candidate.

Instead, the play tells human stories, urging us to feel compassion for our fellows.

Credit:  Ed Krieger
Somewhere near Larchmont Village, five young Filipina women live crammed into a one bedroom condo.  All but one are pregnant, the fifth having already given birth.  It takes a little while to figure out who these ladies are and why they are there.

Quite simply, all came to the United States to give birth, in hopes the child would then have the opportunity to come back to America and go to college.

Janelle (Evie Abat) is the rebellious one, who sneaks out and tries to enjoy herself in America.  This is against the rules, and threatens the security of those in the house.  After all, each of them have overstayed their Visas and these days that makes them a target.  We learn of Janelle and the others via Sampaguitta (Samantha Valdellon) who arrives soon, brought by the Administrator (Hazel Lozano)--the daughter of Filipino immigrants who disdains these girls, their situation, probably their babies, but covers it all with the smile of a not-too-successful real estate agent.

Credit:  Ed Krieger
Thus via the newcommer we meet the others:  Paz (Toni Katano) a spoiled brat who keeps complaining.  Aimee (Sandy Valesco) who is deeply religious but has a wicked sense of humor.  Divina (Arianne Villareal) who has her baby and now waits until he has a US passport. Roshelyn (Angela T. Baesa) is a teacher back home, and has her eyes on the prize, a son who will become President.

What follows offers not so much a drama as a slice of life, amid a flurry of minor (and major) dramas as well as comedies.  More than anything else, this glimpse of a half dozen young women allows (maybe insists) we ponder lives so very different from our own.  We Americans like to say we are the best.  Best schools, best economy, best opportunities, the best society.  But does it seem to others we are hording?  How often are we grateful for what we have, rather than fearful someone will take it from us?  Humble before the achievement of generations rather than vain, boastful, unthinking?

Credit:  Ed Krieger
Mind you, this play has not a single American character in it.  Nor do the characters ever discuss America per se, save in wonder at little details.  Some fume that their fellows seem to disparage their own homeland so much, or look down on one another.  But this never crosses the line into preaching.

Just a half dozen young women trying to do the best they can, often from situations they did not choose.  At least two or three of them never chose to come to here.  Circumstances prove frightening, sometimes, and there's more than a hint of real tragedy.  As well as hope.

Just like everyone else.  That is hallmark, not incidentally, of fine acting.  Everyone seems real.  We recognize them as people we know.  Sometimes as ourselves.

Maybe that is the real polemic, though.  To remind us what we should already know.

America Adjacent plays 8:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays, 3pm on Sundays through March 24, 2019 (added performances at 8pm on Mondays, March 4, 11, & 18Skylight Theatre, 1816 ½ North Vermont, Los Angeles, CA 90027

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