Aired on KSDS-FM on 7/13/18
RUN DATES: 7/3/18 – 7/29/18
VENUE: La Jolla Playhouse
One brutal line – among many – stands out in Martyna Majok’s “Queens”: “You’re either the boot or the back.”
In the intense drama about immigrant women, a high price is paid by everyone who leaves or is left behind. When you’re in survival mode, choices must be made, whether to be pushed to the bottom rung, or step on others to advance.
Skipping back in forth in time, from 2017 to 2001, shortly after 9/11, the play shows us one shabby, illegal basement apartment in Queens, New York, temporary crowded home to exiles, refugees or immigrants from Poland, Honduras, Ukraine, Afghanistan.
The excellent sextet of actors play multiple roles, which may, like the time-hopping, seem confusing, but also makes a point. These women come and go, making their way to America for a “better life.” But what they give up is enormous, and they struggle to earn money in the hopes of bringing over the loved ones left behind, or finding the ones who left them.
They’re all terrified of being forgotten or, as they yell into the unanswered phone machines at home: “Don’t erase me!”
Majok, herself a Polish immigrant, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama this year. Her breakthrough play, “Ironbound,” another immigrant story, was excellently produced at Moxie Theatre last year.
A great deal of pain and anger courses through the play, in its West coast premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse. These women, all emotionally or physically bruised, distrust each other and are reluctant to share their stories. They may open up and bond at times, but they’re equally likely to turn on each other.
Masterful director Carey Perloff, fresh from her stunning production of “A Thousand Splendid Suns” at The Old Globe, helms a marvelous, malleable cast, each creating characters who are thoroughly believable in their sentiments, predicaments and heavily accented English.
The set, lighting and sound transport us to this cramped subterranean space, battered by rain and snow, as the subways shriek overhead.
Now more than ever, America is not so welcoming to freedom-seekers. And yet, they keep coming, and trying, and hoping.
©2018 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews