Play illustrates immigrant efforts

Jessyca Dewey

With the immigration debate at the forefront of the nation’s mind, Cornerstone Theater Company’s latest play, “Los Illegals,” written by Michael John Garces, could not have had better timing. Surrounding the lives of a group of Hispanic immigrants as they struggle to find work and make better lives for themselves in the United States, the play makes a concerted effort to advocate on the behalf of the immigrants nationwide.

However, it seemed that instead of making a well-received statement, they were only preaching to the choir. With most of the dialogue delivered in a rapid-fire Spanish, the English speakers in the audience could hardly be expected to keep up. Even those who understood “un poquito Espanol,” [a little Spanish] were not able to follow the story completely.

Making a noble attempt at bringing together the dichotomy of the region, the director, Shishir Kurup, seems to have forgotten one thing: In order to bring together a social divide, both sides of the equation must have an understanding. In this case, only the Spanish speakers in the audience were privy to the details of the play. The rest of the audience was left to infer only what they could.

If indeed the play were a concerted effort to shed light on the immigration debate, one would think that the English-speaking population would be the group to whom it should appeal. In general, the group most likely to be unsympathetic to the plight of the illegal immigrant would be the English-speaking population. Yet, the dialogue was mostly in Spanish leaving the rest of the crowd merely guessing.

In Spanish or not, however, the play was a huge undertaking. Transforming a Pasadena parking lot into a theater extraordinaire with a down-home feel, the play focused mainly on a group of immigrants whose labor center is at the forefront of a controversy. With riots erupting on one side of the street and immigrants desperately trying to find work on the other side, the two sides desperately do what they can to gain their footing.

Amidst all the chaos and controversy, two individuals are portrayed making their way over the border. Enduring intense heat with little water or food, the two characters have only their dreams to help them survive. Still, one of them does not make it across, dying in the desert.

The characters’ stories undoubtedly had the potential to move the audience, however the overwhelming execution of the production left this individual reeling. Scene after scene, there was too much going on at one time. All sides of the stage were being utilized, constantly forcing the viewer to shift their positions to face the side, the front, the back and so on. If the director might have focused more directly on the main aspects of the story, the play may have been much easier to follow.

Appealing to the humanity of all those watching, subtitles may have been much appreciated. To many, the play may as well have fallen on deaf ears.