The poet Robert Frost posited years ago that "something there is that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down." What might he think, therefore, about a wall separating the countries of Mexico and America, a border wall that is supposed to end drug trafficking and illegal immigration? Does this sound even vaguely familiar? Almost two decades ago the playwrights Bernardo Solano and Allan Havis posed a question to 200 residents of San Diego, Tijuana and Mexicali: "Would you be better, safer and happier with or without a wall separating our two countries?"
The result of this query is the futuristic fantasy of ghosts and hallucinations "Nuevo California," igniting commentary on the campus of the University of Connecticut by the Connecticut Repertory Theatre at the Studio Theatre until Sunday, November 6.
In actuality, a 14-mile metal wall does divide San Diego from the neighboring city of Tijuana, built in 1992, right to the shores of the Pacific. The question raised in this play is should the wall be torn down or fortified. A multitude of voices on all sides of the question are heard. A tide of change is coming and many want to stem it, change it or embrace it. The year is 2028 and the countries are still reeling from a major earthquake five years before that devastated Los Angeles. To complicate matters, oil has been discovered in Mexico and both sides want to profit from its riches. Is the creation of a new binational state, to be named Nuevo California, the answer?
For the first time, a Mexican-American Pope, a Roman Catholic, Felipe (Aiden Marchetti), leads the church and the charge to tear down the metal wall. As he is speaking to the crowd, he is shot by an unknown assailant. Rebecca (Shavana Clarke), a television newswoman, narrates the action as myriad voices speak up in protest or support. A Jewish photo journalist (Gavin McNicholl) eventually finds love with a spirited young Mexican mother Juana (Rebekah Berger) who tragically lost her son in a border accident. A proponent of the no border stance is a hip-hop poet Sin Fin (Pearl Matteson) who freely gives her opinion to her cause while a confidante of the Pope, Albert (Sam Kebede) works to support his own agenda.
As Pope Felipe dies, a Black Bird of Death (Kirsten Keating-Liniger) appears to him, with three spirits wearing Mexican Day of the Dead masks, ones who died crossing the border. They help Felipe heal people who have lost loved ones and, in the process, aid Felipe in finding peace with God.
This talented cast of students from the drama school also includes Perry Madison, Aaron Bantum, Sarah Jensen and Mikaila Baca-Dorion. Richard Ruiz directs this compelling and challenging work that the playwright Solana describes as "magical realism."
For tickets ($7-36) call 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m, Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Will fear or forgiveness prevail in this timely drama that deals with multi-languages and cultures and viewpoints? Come experience this community conversation that begs and deserves to be heard.