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Griffin Theatre’s In To America is a stark reminder of the contributions made by the many immigrants that have come from all around the world and have made the United States what it is today. In writer Bill Massolia’s multicultural story, American history is retold by several immigrant narratives where sixty personal stories are shared spanning over thirty countries. The play begins with the American immigration experience from Jamestown in the early 17th century and covers the 400 years since, many of its stories remarkable as they are daring. 

We hear the good and the bad. In many stories we get a taste of the shameful mistreatment immigrants received upon their arrival, the brave new world of vast opportunity they were seeking no more than a hostile environment that spews hate for the simple fact of being different. In others (not nearly as many) we hear how immigrants were received with opens arms, their dreams fulfilled as their new home offers the new life they had so desperately had hoped for. In this condensed history lesson we also learn the hardships endured throughout perilous journeys in leaving their own countries in daring escapes from their own native countries. 

“We never crossed the border. The border crossed us,” we are profoundly told from Juanita Andersen who portrays a Mexican landowner after being squeezed out by new arrivals during the Manifest Destiny.  

The series of monologues flows quickly as the story follows a timeline that is rich in information covering such events as congress adopting the uniform rule in 1790 so that any white person could apply for citizenship after two years of residency, the Dred Scott decision in 1857 declaring free Africans non-citizens, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1902, Native Americans made citizens in 1924 and the 1980 Refugee Act that removed refugees as a preference category, reducing worldwide ceiling for immigration to 270,000. Many, many other significant policies are brought to light that have had an effect on immigration.

Artist Director Bill Massolia comments about the production, “In To America owes a great deal of its inspiration from my own family’s immigrant roots.” 

He was also inspired by Ronald Takaki’s award-winning book A Different Mirror where it is stated “In the making of multicultural America, the contingent’s original inhabitants were joined by people pushed from their homelands by poverty and persecution in Asia, Latin America and Europe, and pulled here by extravagant dreams. Others came here in chains from Africa, and still others fled here from countries like Afghanistan and Vietnam. These men and women may not have read John Locke, but they came to believe that ‘in the beginning all the world was America.’ They envisioned the emerging country as a place for a bold new start.”

He further states, “Marginalized and degraded as the “Other” minorities came to believe even more fiercely and fervently than did the founding fathers in the ‘self-evident truths’ that ‘all men are created equal’, entitled to the ‘unalienable rights’ of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’. 

In To America also explores the paranoia regarding immigration held by one such founding father quoting Benjamin Franklin, "Few of their children in the country learn English... The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages ... Unless the stream of their importation could be turned they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious."

The play’s theme is strong in reminding us that America has been made on the backs of immigrants, boasting many great achievements and spotlighting a handful of prominent “new Americans” who have truly made a difference in our country’s progress. In the end we get a picture of hope, unity and promise.

Dorothy Milne directs while the cast in this insightful piece includes Juanita Andersen, Katie Campbell, Jennifer Cheung, Aneisa Hicks, Christopher W. Jones, Francisco Lopez, Adam Marcantoni, Sean McGill, Rasika Ranganathan, Omer Abbas Salem, Scott Shimizu, Jason VonRohn and Elizabeth Hope Williams. Each actor plays multiple characters from all over the world, transitioning very well from accent to accent, adding to the play’s genuine nature in relaying a spirit everyone can identify with.  

In To America is just the play that will prompt many to go back and research their family lineage to discover their own journey to America.

In To America is being performed at Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage through April 23rd. Tickets are $38 and valet parking is now available. For tickets and/or more show information click here

         

  

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Tuesday, 08 March 2016 12:59

Strawdog's D.O.A. A Nice Ode to Film Noir

In Strawdog Theatre’s final performance at the popular northside theatre bar, Hugen Hall, we are presented with Elizabeth Lovelady’s world premiere adaptation of Rudolph Mate’s film noir thriller D.O.A.

Intrigue is the name of the game in this whodunit and audience members are kept guessing to the end.

When Frank Bigelow walks into a police station to report a murder, the intrigue begins immediately as we find out the victim is none other than himself. Poisoned and running out of time, Bigelow frantically searches for the reason he has been targeted and the people responsible. Going over past events leading up to the present and speculating on all possibilities as to why someone would want him dead, Bigelow puts the pieces of the puzzle together, bringing to light a few surprises along the way. As the sixty-minute play unfolds, clues are slowly revealed at a nice pace and the plot steadily gains traction.

The plot has enough to keep one interested though not necessarily keeping one on the end of their seat. What makes the play special is its setting. Thanks to commendable efforts by costume designer Raquel Adorno, lighting designer John Kelly, sound designer Heath Hays, prop designer Jamie Karas and scenic designer Mike Mroch, the simple space is nicely transformed to which D.O.A. embodies a classic flatfoot detective style with scenes reminiscent unforgettable films such as The Third Man or Double Indemnity.

Capturing the smallest of details to add a genuineness to the proposed era are the women made up in black lipstick, the stylish 1940s suits and dresses, the smoke-filled room that creates moving shadows amongst the white spotlighting and the snappy dialogue filled with film noir jargon. Actors gracefully walk around the stage and seating area as the scenes quickly change, often leaving a cast member standing or sitting right alongside a member of the audience, making this a unique theatre experience.   

The play also offers its share of humor as a handful of scenes over-emphasize the drama with extended freeze frames, gazes and deadpan deliveries of cheesy lines.

Mickey O’Sullivan leads the capable cast as a desperate Frank Bigelow with fellow cast members contributing nicely – many in dual roles, especially getting strong performances by Sean McGill (Harry, Bartender, Chester) and Kelsey Shipley as Elaine/Ms. Foster.  

 

Strawdog Theatre’s D.O.A. is being performed at Hugen Hall (3829 N. Broadway) through April 5th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.Strawdog.org.      

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