Long Way Go Down
Immigration tale is a thrilling ride
|Jackalope Theatre Company presents|
|Long Way Go Down|
Review by Keith Glab
Penned in 2010, when Arizona’s new immigration law dominated headlines across the nation, Long Way Go Down concerns a couple from Tijuana who are smuggled underneath crates of bananas all the way to Arizona. The coyotes – or border escorts – who take them expect payment on the other side, but Nini (Danny Martinez) sees his friends and family shun his requests for help, so Violetta (Paloma Nozicka) is held as collateral. Chris (Adam Brown), the junior member of this father-son coyote enterprise, begins to bond with the would-be immigrants, and an emotionally charged series of turns ensues.
Even though the thrilling script is slightly more plot than character driven, the cast of this Jackalope production flesh out their characters under the direction of Kaiser Zaki Ahmed. Martinez goes back to the basics with skillful tactic/objective acting that gives the desperate Nini several dimensions. Nozicka uses subtle physicality to communicate pages of inner monologue without a word. When it is revealed that Violetta is pregnant, Chris is shocked, but the audience already suspects as much because of the way she carries herself. Brown has terrific comedic instincts and gives the undereducated Chris a sensitive side. As Chris’ father, Tim Miller serves as the antagonist of the play. Miller gives Billy an understated ominous presence that drives the action.
This fantastic cast gets to perform Dohrn’s gripping script on a phenomenal set designed by John Wilson. Most of the action takes place in a way station center stage that the audience can see into through exterior wall studs. There is a “back” room consisting of a worn mattress, but it is placed downstage and does not obstruct. Martinez also uses other portions of the stage when Nini attempts to raise money for the coyotes, but Wilson’s masterpiece is the functional semi-truck stage right. Crucial scenes take place inside the truck front and its headlights wash the stage when the truck is arriving or departing. You have to examine it for a while before you’re certain that an actual semi-truck didn’t crash through the wall of the Viaduct Theatre.
Alex Farrington’s violence design is chillingly realistic, punctuating a production that isn’t afraid to make the audience uncomfortable. This isn’t to say that the production is too serious or melodramatic; portions of the realistic dialogue are hilarious and playful, and the cast expertly segues between these contrasts. Long Way Go Down juxtaposes humor with drama, nuance with catharsis, and thrills with poignancy. Its resolution satisfies, leaving you eager to muse about what happens to the characters five years down the road. Sequel, please.
Long Way Go Down continues through December 22nd at Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western (map), with performances Thursdays-Sundays at 7:30, plus Monday, December 10 and Wednesday, December 19 at 7:30. Tickets are $10-15, and are available by phone (773-340-2543) or online here (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at JackalopeTheatre.org. (Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes, no intermission)
Photos by Krzysztof Piotrowski
behind the scenes
Kaiser Zaki Ahmed (director); Hana Rickert (stage manager); John Wilson (set design); Josh Lambert (tech director); Emma Weber (costumes); Claire Sangster (lighting); Marisa Barnes (sound design); Rachel Carpenter, Ana Culajay (props); Calamity West (dramaturg); Jon Cohen, Andrew Burden Swanson (co-producers); Pat Whalen, Matt Hooks (asst. directors); Alex Farrington (violence design); Krzysztof Piotrowski (photos)