Theater review by Raven Snook
Erin McKeown and Quiara Alegría Hudes’s well-timed musical Miss You Like Hell bursts onto the stage just like its front-and-center lioness mama, Beatriz (Daphne Rubin-Vega at her rawest), who whisks away her estranged teenage daughter, Olivia (Gizel Jiménez, wonderful), on a life-altering cross-country road trip. Although Beatriz is ostensibly concerned about her suicidal progeny’s well-being, she has an ulterior motive: to get Olivia to testify at a immigration hearing in California. As they bicker across a virtual American landscape, a diverse chorus gives voice to some of the folks who compose our complicated country.
The show is quite a tearjerker when it sticks to the fraught mother-daughter relationship at its core, with tuneful folk-rock songs that touch on depression, heritage and family (plus a quirky ode to the majesty of Yellowstone, led by Latoya Edwards’s charming park ranger). But after hitting a few bumps on the highway, Hudes’s book loses focus and crashes into cliché. Lear deBessonet’s staging on a mostly empty set is fluid, and it’s a treat to spend time with complex Latinx characters who buck stereotypes. But although Miss You Like Hell takes us on a resonant journey, its trajectory needs adjusting.
Public Theater (Off Broadway). Music by Erin McKeown. Lyrics by McKeown and Quiara Alegría Hudes. Book by Hudes. Directed by Lear deBessonet. With Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gizel Jiménez. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.