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Review: THERE AND BACK at Ground Floor Theatre

Review: THERE AND BACK at Ground Floor Theatre

In Playwright Raul Garza's masterful play "There and Back", Gloria travels from Mexico to join husband Victor who is living and working in a migrant worker camp. The romanticized rustic cabin as described in his letters is in reality a ramshackle converted chicken coop. This arrangement is only temporary of course, a starter home of sorts. Victor is optimistic that with hard work and ambition his family will prosper and grow and they do of course, but perhaps not as quickly as envisioned. Gloria is hesitant, but she loves her husband and she quickly adjusts to her new life. Intimate conversations with the Virgen de Guadalupe provide Gloria with a bit of solace in this hostile, lonely place.

Gloria also has an old radio to keep her company. The radio is an interesting theatrical device that enables the story to unfold historically as well as culturally. Sprinkled throughout the music we catch bits of presidential speeches from Kennedy to Reagan (and his amnesty initiative) to the present day anti-immigrant rhetoric that just never stops. The radio enhances the narrative of the play and becomes one of Gloria's little treasures.

There is a great deal of beauty to be found within Gloria's seemingly simple life. From the outside looking in we see a woman who is reasonably content with her life and her circumstances. At the same time, Garza allows us generous glimpses of Gloria's rich inner life. Gloria is an extremely private person, dignified, graceful and elegant. She is a noble woman with a good deal of healthy self-esteem, kindness and faith in God, the Virgen de Guadalupe, her family, herself and her place in the world.

Garza's characters are fully realized human beings, and as we all know, human beings are messy creatures. We are complicated, unpredictable and intelligent beings who are constantly and consistently not what we appear to be. We are enigmas to one another and ourselves as well.

Karina Dominguez is an endlessly fascinating Gloria. Her acting technique seamlessly carries us through the transitions of Gloria's youth, middle and old age. Dominguez finds every opportunity within Garza's text to remind us of Gloria's incredible strength and beauty.

Giselle Marie Munoz is delightful as the somewhat mischievous Virgen de Guadalupe. She is everything Gloria needs her to be - mother, sister, and best friend. Munoz embodies several other characters as well and manages to make each of them unique and memorable.

Mical Trejo has his work cut out for him as Victor, son Ray and grandson Max. It's a tall order and Trejo delivers three very different men from differing generations, each with his own American experience.

La Enstera's gorgeous set is beautifully complimented by Pam Fletcher-Friday's colorful costumes and Natalie George's lighting design. "There and Back" paints for us a fascinating picture of the immigrant struggle and reminds us that it is an important piece of the fabric of American history. It warns us of the fragility everyone faces as Americans and current events threaten her survival like never before.

Raul Garza is a gifted playwright and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future. I highly recommend "There and Back" playing now at Ground Floor Theatre.

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