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26 Miles

a World Premiere
CATEGORY :
by Quiara Alegría Hudes

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Hertz Stage [WEBSITE]
ID# 3352

SHOWING : March 20, 2009 - April 12, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Get on board for a world premiere by Pulitzer Prize finalist Quiara Alegría Hudes. An ’83 Buick Regal may be an unlikely place to find out what family really means, but when Beatriz and her estranged daughter head off into the night on a spontaneous road trip, neither mother nor daughter are prepared for what they’re in for. This funny and tender new play reminds us that the best souvenirs on the road of life are the relationships we make along the way – and that sometimes all it takes to find yourself is the power of family, Spanish in five words a day… and a herd of buffalo.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Kent Gash
U/S Beatriz Rose Bianco
U/S Olivia Dowd Keith
Olivia Bethany Anne Lind
Aaron Jason MacDonald
Manuel Triney Sandoval
Beatriz Socorro Santiago
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Great Set, Good Performances, Dull Play
by playgoer
Sunday, April 12, 2009
2.5
The person I was with HATED "26 Miles" and found it completely unengaging. It's definitely not a show for everyone. It contains a lot of unnecessary four-letter words that used to be the hallmark of HBO and Showtime productions showing off their "liberated" vocabularies. That was enough to turn me off in the first few minutes.

The performances are all good, and the arc of the play works, once the script finally comes to an end (after a few false ending-type moments). All in all, it acts as a promising addition to the oeuvre of up-and-coming playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes. Once she has more produced works, the importance of this particular work will probably diminish. The characters just aren't that engaging. All have some redeeming qualities, but they carry a lot of off-putting baggage.

The set works very well with limited space and the need for numerous locations. The slide show before the play (of random vacation photos) is highly unfortunate, however. This ain't no happy family trip we're about to see, and the blandness of the intro photos does not provide a worthwhile contrast. It's one of the few directorial missteps I've noted in Kent Gash's productions (who directed my absolute favorite Hertz Stage show, "King Hedley II"). [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Road Trip Edition
by Dedalus
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
4.5
Last week, I went on a road trip. Without leaving the confines of the Alliance’s Hertz’ Stage, I joined Olivia and Beatriz for a journey of bonding and discovery and growing up. And, it was quite a ride!

Playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes, fresh off a Pulitzer nomination for “Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue” and a Tony nomination for “In the Heights,” could have had the pick of any theatre in New York to premiere her next piece, “26 Miles.” Instead, she chose to bring it to Kent Gash and the Alliance Theatre (who did such a nice job with “Elliot” a few years back). That’s our gain, and definitely the rest of the country’s loss. This is a moving and funny work, a semi-autobiographical examination of the toxic ties that bind mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, husbands and wives. It is filled with incident and surprise, poetic dialogue and banal profanity, tenderness and anger.

It is 1986, and 15-year-old Olivia is chafing in the house of her father and step-monster. Not allowed to go upstairs EVER, not allowed to mention her birth mother EVER, not allowed to buy blue jeans EVER, she finds solace in philosophical ramblings that she collects into a self-published literary magazine. After an incident that leaves her vomiting 15 times, she calls Beatriz, her Cuban birth mother, and the two are off to Wyoming. (Olivia says she’s never been anywhere other than Philadelphia and Paoli – those of us who spent any portions of our lives in the shadow of the Walt Whitman Bridge can truly appreciate the horror of that statement). But in Wyoming – well, as a child, Olivia used to dream of getting away on a camping trip with her Daddy to a place where the Buffalo roam (and thunder). And Beatriz, fighting marriage demons of her own, is only too happy to seize this opportunity to get to know her daughter.

Staged in a tight beige room that instantly transforms into a bedroom, a motel room, a staircase in Olivia’s step-mother’s sterile home, and a projection chamber, the stage becomes our window on America, a constantly changing screenscape that follows the two women and pulls us into their journey.

Along the way, they meet an Ohio Seven-Eleven attendant with his own Philadelphia ties, a tamale salesmen who brings the mountain tastes of home back to Beatriz, a library that opens the window to a snowy adventurer’s doom, and a hundred motels rooms and squabbles and moments to bond and phone calls back home that only answering machines will hear. (One of the more moving moments of the play is when Olivia’s father creates an answering machine message that says everything he always wanted to say to Olivia, then erases it for a “Nobody’s home, Leave a Message” safety-net.)

I loved the inter play between Bethany Anne Lind’s Olivia and Socorro Santiago’s Beatriz. They were endearing and infuriating and acted as if they had known each other for years. They each know the absolutely right thing to say to cut the deepest, to soothe the quickest. They’ve spent most of the last fifteen years apart and are quite different physically, yet, at a core emotional level, they are so much alike it would be impossible to mistake them for anything but mother and daughter.

And, when the plot developments come, when we learn why Olivia was so sick that first night, why Beatriz was so eager to leaver her husband behind, it’s doubly moving because Ms. Lind and Ms. Santiago have laid the emotional groundwork with such precision.

They are ably backed up by Jason MacDonald and Triney Sandoval who play ALL the other roles. If the “driving motion” of some of the projections are a tad creepy-crawly slow, if some of the digressions seem tacked on (the beautifully rendered library scene), the whole journey works, the multi-media environment works, the story strikes all the right emotional buttons. And Ms. Lind and Ms. Santiago together give one of the best performances of the year (when they are apart, they seem diminished, less than whole).

So, how excited will you be when you are 26 miles from making your lifelong 2-dimensional dream come to 3-D life? How many of your resentments and hidden hurts come out at the most inopportune moments? How many of your daily frustrations would seem petty (or doubly cruel) to outside eyes? How well do you really know the people you know best?

If any of these questions ever crossed your mind, if they paint the borders of how you wonder about the world, I strongly recommend you join Olivia and Beatriz for their westbound bonding.

It’s a road trip like you’ve never been on before, one you’ve never realized you wanted to be on. And you know, when you come back home, things will never be the same.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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