‘Lunatic 19s - A Deportational Roadtrip’ review

Theatre, Fringe
3 out of 5 stars
Lunatic 19s, Finborough Theatre
© Marian Medic

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Urgent but wordy drama about a woman being deported from the US

The premise of ‘Lunatic 19s: – A Deportational Road Trip’ is terrifying, all the more so for its basis in reality. Gracie Reyes, a Chicana woman who has spent most of her life in Kentucky, wakes up in a hospital room in a neck brace. She has survived a near-fatal car collision. Alec Herrero has come to deport her under ICE’s new rules: any illegal immigrant – no matter how young they were on arrival to the USA – is to be sent back to their country of origin if they commit a single crime. 

Gracie’s crime? Failing to return a rental car on time, and pay the subsequent fee. She is bundled into the back of a truck, with no phone call, no legal recourse, no money and no sympathy, and the two make their way to the border.

Tegan McLeod explodes the vicious absurdity of this inhumane ruling in her wordy drama. The stage is bare and Kevin Treacy’s lighting design renders it institutional and cold. Gracie is handcuffed and can’t even pull down her own knickers down to piss; despite her life-threatening injury, she is offered no comfort or support in the back of the windowless truck; the audience is shown, starkly, simply, the physical horror of her predicament.

But where the minimal stage design shows rather than tells, McLeod’s script drags out the signposts and paints them neon. Gabriela García plays Gracie with spark, celebrating her humour and resilience, but the lyrical monologues Gracie indulges in turn her into a manic pixie dream girl declaiming verse against a cruel world – they undermine, rather than celebrate, the multifaceted character we just about glimpse in single excellent scenes.

Gracie’s burgeoning relationship with Alec (Devon Anderson), a complex thing, has a grim, sad realism that gets lost in the sort of plot that seems to have been made by consulting a Magic 8-Ball and finishes on an excruciatingly heteronormative note for no reason at all. The unrigorous use of declamatory text wipes out the tender, honest, believable conversations between the two characters, and a play about a brutal tragedy of our time ends up feeling chloroformed by art.

By: Ka Bradley

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