Pulitzer Prize winning author Martyna Majok’s “Sanctuary City” is set in Newark, New Jersey shortly after 9/11, when even more scrutiny was heaped on those “not-quite-citizens” among us. Two teenage DREAMers, identified only as “G” (Ana Nicolle Chavez) and “B” (Miles Fowler), are taking care of each other as they navigate unstable home life situations.
By Carol Edger Germain
The first part of the play takes place in a minimally structured space identified as B’s room, built with simple playground monkey bars, but the actors are adept and making us “see” a fully built set. G repeatedly appears at the window, sometimes freezing without a coat, bruised and even bloody once, begging to be let in and asking for respite from her violent stepfather. They know the consequences of an investigation by children’s services if she goes to school with visible injuries, so B helps her fabricate various stories for her absences. B’s situation has become dramatically more tenuous when he learns his mother will likely desert him and leave the US. He sees his hopes of citizenship and a college degree quickly swirling down the drain. “G” and “B” comfort each other and enjoy the relative safety of their cocoon, but refrain from becoming lovers, which puzzles many of us in the audience. Because of their intense caring for each other, it seems the natural course, but they continue to solidify their friendship and mutually observe the boundaries without discussion.
The first act ends with G heading off to college, after becoming a naturalized citizen, B still in limbo, and the two becoming engaged, deciding that marriage is the best bet for B to obtain citizenship, considering their relationship to that point and the fact that they are living together, they are willing to take the risk that there would be nothing suspicious about it.
Fast forward 3-1/2 years to a full set showing B’s apartment, where G meets B’s tenant Henry (Konoa Goo). Emotions quickly escalate, although some of the underlying triggers are unclear, at first. The ambiguity of the explosive final act of the play is quite successful in letting the audience reach their own conclusion as to what will happen, what has happened, and how the three characters will fare after the curtain closes. Sanctuary City gives us a glimpse into their complicated lives and the possible catastrophic risks of their plans. As a side note, the Department of Homeland Security finally ruled on September 7, 2022 that DACA will continue with only minor changes.
The creative team features direction by Zi Alikhan; scenic design by Chika Shimizu; costume design by Jojo Siu; lighting design by Solomon Weisbard; sound design by John Nobori; intimacy choreography by Amanda Rose Villarreal; and stage management by Brandon Hong Cheng. Another successful Playhouse production! The Playhouse’s reputation for variety and excellence is well deserved.
Sanctuary City Martyna Majok (Playwright) Zi Alikhan (Director) Cast: Ana Nicolle Chavez, Miles Fowler, Kanoa Goo Pasadena Playhouse 39 S. El Molino Avenue 626-356-7529 pasadenaplayhouse.org Until Oct. 9 Sunday 9/25 2:00 pm Weds-Thu-Fri 9/28,9/29,9/30,10/5,10/6,10/7 8:00 pm Sat 10/110/8 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm Sun 10/2,10/9 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm
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