Playwright Boni B. Alvarez’ new play, America Adjacent, could not be more timely. The current immigration brouhaha saturates the airwaves and the print media, skewing the national conversation, while those individuals caught up in the mess suffer in a myriad of ways. The United States of America is, and has always been, a shining beacon that lures people to come here to find a better life for themselves and their children. You can’t blame them for that. However, uncontrolled immigration is a problem. But in a time of heated rhetoric about drugs and gangsters and rapists and murderers, it is refreshing to see a play that focuses on individuals, each similar in their ambitions, but unique in their own story.
In a one-bedroom condo in East Hollywood, six illegal Filipinas endure in close contact with each other, with some sleeping in the bedroom, while others make do in La-Z-Boy chairs. Some have newly given birth, others are in various stages of pregnancy. They have come from the Philippines so that their child will have the advantages of being born as a citizen in America.
At first, it is chaotic for an audience to parse who is who and what their names are. But as the play progresses, each character emerges in her own, very unique way. The nature of their situation is revealed before the play begins as, one by one, a few young women enter and claim one of the few reclining chairs. The action is kicked off when a newcomer, a country girl named Sampaguita (Samantha Valdellon) enters confused by her journey and aghast at the situation in which she finds herself, that is, crammed into a small apartment and not allowed to leave.
One woman, Janelle (Evie Abat), is a higher society type, a smoker who finds ways to leave the house. She has given birth and is unhappily awaiting her flight home. Another, Roshelyn (Angela T. Baesa), assumes a leadership role and is knick-named “Professor.” Vivacious Paz Locsin (Toni Katano) has a child-like enthusiasm and is combative with Janelle. Aimee Reyes (Sandy Velasco) is religious and has a sweet nature. And an unsmiling, somewhat withdrawn, Divina (Arianne Villareal), harbors her own sad woe.
Tall, attractive, well dressed and nicely coiffed, the Administrator (Hazel Lozano) rules with an iron fist. She shows up from time to time to bring in some modestly insufficient supplies, and to admonish them to never leave the apartment, lest ICE picks them up and sends them back. There is a small walled-in patio where Janelle can smoke and Sampaguita can water the plants. Occasionally the women can catch the erotic doings of their neighbors.
Under the sensitive direction of Jon Lawrence Rivera, this ensemble is terrific, playing off each other with seamless, boundless energy, filling the stage with pathos and joy. I loved them. Handsomely mounted, the production boasts a scenic design by Christopher Scott Murrillo, lighting design by Matt Richter, sound design by Austin Quan, costume design by Mylette Nora, and properties by Lily Bartenstein. The production stage manager is Christopher Hoffman.
The Skylight Theatre Company presentation of America Adjacent, produced by Gary Grossman and Tony Abatemarco, with associate producer Giselle Töngi Walters, runs through March 24 at Skylight Theatre, 1816 ½ North Vermont in Los Angeles.