78th Street Theatre Lab
WALKING TO AMERICA
Written and Directed by ALBERTO BONILLA
Produced by MEGAN LAUGHTON
78th Street Theatre Lab, 236 W. 78 St., August 31 – September 25, 2004
Sets JACK HAZARD
Lighting PAUL HUDSON
Composer/Sound Designer DEAN PARKER
Stage Manager MEGHAN SHARER
Press Representation KLASFELD PUBLICITY
Susan Kerner – Ed Lane – Quinn Mander
John Andrew-Morrison – Jessica Myhr – Angela Paz
and Orlando Rios as Palo (the boy)
A play that is peripherally suggestive of a television movie of the week, complete with filmed commercial breaks, Alberto Bonilla’s biographical, multi-media WALKING TO AMERICA recounts the amazing tale of one child’s journey from the streets of Nicaragua to the elusive Promised Land called America. This one child represents the many like him who believe in televised illusions, and who think that all will be well and happy just north of the Mexican border.
In many cases, life here is probably better. As we learn in this play, however, is the journey from there to here can be worse than the hardships left behind. If nothing else WALKING TO AMERICA is an enticement to learn more about the central character, Palo, inspired by the actual life of an orphaned teen, and those like him. Homeless, poor, and in search of a brighter future, he literally, over the course of two years, walks the 2400 miles from his home in Nicaragua to the Mexico-United States border. Sniffing glue along the way to suppress the reality of violence, prostitution, harsh factory labor, and all of the other elements that accompany life on the streets, Palo is an unlikely poster boy for the tenacity of the human spirit.
In terms of production values, the ensemble cast, in multiple roles, flow well with the rapid pace, even through some scene changes that leave them shouted out by their shadows. Orlando Rios’ Palo is a combination of hope, anger and frustration. Adapting to his changing surroundings and the myriad people he encounters, this Palo is a survivor. In counterpoint to the gritty real-life action, the intermittent WALKING TO AMERICA commercial announcements run the gamut from spoof to social satire. An obvious counterpoint to life in the Americas as presented, the sanitized advertisements make a stark point about reality, illusion, and the things worth fighting for. Is Palo walking 2400 miles to discover the mythical family of his dreams, as seen on television? Perhaps.
One would imagine that a work like WALKING TO AMERICA, having at its core an amazing journey, would be rather comprehensive. Yet, running at just an hour, the play feels oddly abbreviated, like a "to be continued" television episode. Perhaps this is the point Bonilla means to make, as Palo’s arrival in the United States is not so much an ending as the beginning of a new chapter. Whatever the case, the experience left me hungry, and curious.
- Kessa De Santis -