Friday, April 7, 2017

Review of Griffin Theatre Company's In to America

Once upon a time I went to a show and I was called In to America. It was by William Massolia, and it was directed by Dorothy Milne. It was about the immigrant story in the United States and how American history is the stories of immigrants. It is a compilation of a lot of real life stories given mostly in direct address to the audience and occasionally using other actors to play other characters in a scene. I think this is a really interesting and important topic for a show. I think this show is very educational and moving. I liked it.

There were a lot of very moving parts of this show. There was a woman from Afghanistan named Asia Rahi (Rasika Ranganathan) whose home was destroyed. And she decided to leave with her children. But one of her daughters had an asthma attack and she needed to get some air so she lifted up her burqa, and the guards started beating her and the son distracted them but he didn't get away from them. I think that the brother was so brave to have done that. It is so sad because if they had gone at a different time or if she hadn't had the asthma attack, everything could have worked out better. I'm sure Asia Rahi loved all her children equally, so to lose one child for another must have been terrible. Mao Hiet (Scott Shimizu) was from Cambodia. He talks about his escape, where he loses some of his family members and is shot at by the Khmer Rouge. At the end of his story, it is not a happily ever after for him even though he has survived. He says he doesn't know why the U.S. didn't help save millions of lives. There was a man from Syria (Omer Abbas Salem) who talked about how a bomb had hit his house and his son had to carry out parts of his mother and sister so they could be buried. I think the saddest part to me was how his son kept writing "Mom" in his notebook over and over again. I can't imagine how terrible that would be and I really wish I could have done something about that. The play shows an instance where it is too late to help (in Cambodia) and then it shows an instance where we can still do something about it (in Syria) to suggest that the U.S. can still help there. (My mom and I found this list of charities that actually help.)

Even though a lot of the experiences in this show are sad ones, I think the show still has a lot of inspiring moments. During the Great Migration, John H. Johnson (Christopher W. Jones) went from Arkansas to Chicago for schools and resources available to African American people. He later founded the Johnson Publishing Company, and I think that is super inspiring to see this story of a kid moving somewhere so he could go to a good school and then getting a great job and starting his own publishing company. Susie King Taylor (Anesia Hicks) went to a school that only taught thirty children and it was in an free woman's house. The free woman was teaching a secret school for African American children in the south during slavery. I think that teacher is so inspiring because she stood up for what she believed in, that everyone should have an education, and she actually made a difference with the kids. There was a woman named Lilly Daché (Elizabeth Hope Williams) who immigrated from France in the 1920s, and she was looking at all the things in the city. And a taxi driver gets really mad at her and tells her to wake up and then she does and looks at all the amazing things around her in the bustling city. She said she felt like she was discovering America. I think that is a really beautiful line. If you don't look up, you won't discover all the strangely beautiful stuff around you. And later in her life she becomes a fashion designer.

I thought this show also had some funny and heartwarming stories. Like one of my favorites was about a woman who had come from Japan, Riyo Orite (Jennifer Cheung), and she was making biscuits for all the men who worked with her husband. She has only just learned how to make biscuits because they didn't really make them in Japan. And the biscuits turn out to be so hard that they call them dogkillers. There was also a heartwarming story about a man from Ireland, Emmanuel Steen (Sean McGill), and once he got to America he was so excited to be there, and he sees a hot dog cart and ice cream sandwich cart, and he tries both of them and thinks they are amazing. It is so sweet to see somebody get excited about foods we see everyday and experience them for the first time. There was a woman named Lupe Macais (Juanita Andersen) who had a funny story about crossing the border from Mexico to get to America that was sweet at the end. Basically she was kind of over-prepared because she had this coach who was terrified for her and gave her so much information at once, which was very funny to watch. But once she gets to the border, they just let her go through without talking to her. The look on her face is just so giddy but also kind of relieved. I thought that was so sweet. I really liked that scene. Another really sweet moment was about this woman from Italy, Elda Torini (Katie Campbell), who had come to America after World War II had ended and was waiting for her boyfriend who had been in the American army. She didn't care that everybody else had to wait in the line. She just ran through. She didn't care that it was snowing; she didn't care that she had high heels on. She just ran to him, and a few days later they got married. I thought that was such a sweet story.

People who would like this show are people who like moving stories, secret school, and hot dogs. I think that people should go see this show. These are beautiful, moving, and important stories of the immigrant experience.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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