BWW Review: HUMMINGBIRD at Teatro Paraguas
Augusto Boal once said, "Theatre is a form of knowledge; it should and can also be a means of transforming society. Theatre can help us build our future, rather than just waiting for it." I cannot help but feel very fortunate that the Santa Fe theatre scene has been full of educational and transformative works in the past year; the latest being Hummingbird at Teatro Paraguas, which opened this last weekend and will run through the 23rd.
Hummingbird is an original play, written by Paraguas favorite Alix Hudson (it should be noted that Ms. Hudson is an educator, which definitely shows through the care and authenticity with which she writes her young characters). Hummingbird deals with, in essence, the plight of three older children of refugees from an unspecified country. Sam (the always charismatic Devin Zemora) and his sister Nadia (talented newcomer Iza Konings) are grieving but somewhat adjusting to the deportation of their parents; Nadia's best friend, Miriam (the effervescent Christine Armenion, also relatively new to theatre in Santa Fe) is implied to be somewhat newer to the also unnamed first world country in which the play is set.
Early in the play, then high school senior Nadia falls into a coma-like state that plagues children of refugees known as "Apathy Syndrome" (I personally had no idea what Apathy Syndrome was, but Ms. Hudson's writing helps the audience understand the topic easily). The play then follows Miriam and Sam as they act as caretakers and hope to use the Syndrome to fight to reverse the deportation of Nadia and Sam's parents, even as they wonder if that will even help Nadia ever wake up.
There is, certainly, a lot of heavy subject matter in this play; however, it is surprisingly, and delightfully, comedic at times as well. Director Malcolm Morgan did a masterful job guiding his actors through the different emotional beats (in the case of Zamora, one scene in particular shifts incredibly quickly between drama and comedy, but the transition is performed flawlessly) and creating the world of this play.
Ms. Hudson utilizes monologues and flashback scenes to great effect; some of the best writing in the entire show is in the monologues Nadia gives after she falls into her coma. Most of these monologues are centered around the experience of migrating hummingbirds - a metaphor that comes to work very well for Nadia in particular and refugee children as a whole. Through her flashback scenes, we develop a greater understanding of the relationships of the characters and the events that led to Nadia's Apathy Syndrome (there is some LGBTQ+ representation within one of these scenes that is absolutely lovely, both in writing and performance, and I was glad to see it included).
The story does not end neatly; while some problems are resolved, some major questions remain as the lights fade on the actors at the end of the last scene. I think it was a wise decision on Ms. Hudson's part; it makes a strong statement about the lasting impact of harsh immigration policy.
I found Hummingbird to truly be a powerful play. As with any new work, there may be some minor alteration still in its future - I had the thought while watching that perhaps a few scenes could have been tightened up slightly, and a few details could have been a bit more clear from the start (it took me, at least, a couple scenes to realize that Nadia and Sam were siblings), but these are minor critiques in a very strong production as a whole - additional credit in particular should go to Jeff Tarnoff for his lighting and technical design; the one major set transition in the production is absolutely breathtaking.
I look forward to seeing this new show grow and develop, and strongly encourage the Santa Fe theatre community to check this one out.
Hummingbird runs through February 23 at Teatro Paraguas (3205 Calle Marie); tickets may be purchased at the door, online at https://tphummingbird.brownpapertickets.com, or by phone at 424-1601. Ticket prices range from $5 to $25.