Review: SANCTUARY CITY at Ground Floor Theatre

A Powerful Exploration of the Personal Experience of DREAMers

By: Jun. 06, 2023
Review: SANCTUARY CITY at Ground Floor Theatre

SANCTUARY CITY, written by Martyna Majok and produced by the Ground Floor Theatre, presents a thought-provoking exploration of DREAMers, the concept of sanctuary, and the complexity of how to live as an undocumented immigrant in the United States. In SANCTUARY CITY, it’s post-9/11 Newark, NJ, and two teenagers who are DREAMers become one another’s sanctuaries from harsh circumstances. G, played by Arielle Levin, becomes naturalized; she and B, Michael Galvan, plan to marry so that he may legally remain in the country. Complications mount and the two friends find this challenges and fractures their relationship.

The production values for this production at the Ground Floor Theatre are commendable. Gary Thornsberry’s utilitarian and industrial set, composed of various configurations of scaffolding, effectively conveys the bleak circumstances of the play. It also serves to enhance a brisk and powerful first act that shoots us into the second with intensity and speed. Act Two, as mentioned in director Andrea Nunez’s notes, “roots itself in a continuous scene.” In this way it does seem like two different plays, and these are indeed two different styles.

The directorial choices made by Andrea Nunez are notable. She keeps the pacing in Act I at a powerful clip in imaginative ways. However, she doesn't get much help from the playwright in Act 2. Playwright Majok gives us a powerful look at the unique and difficult circumstances that plague undocumented immigrants throughout the play, but Act 2, so deftly written and performed, takes on a rather average tone in comparison.

It seems like somewhat of a shortcut to use a "love triangle" that leaves B entirely desolate in the second act. As the emotionally conflicted B, Galvan gives a strong and modulated performance in the first act that leads to a one note melodramatically written conclusion in Act 2, limiting the growth and impact of the character's arc. Still, Galvan gives it his all. As G, Arielle Levin brings a sense of authenticity and emotional depth to her character. Levin's portrayal is nuanced and genuine, providing a relatable and compelling perspective on the issue at hand. B's love interest Henry seems written more as a device to move the plot forward rather than a fleshed out character, but Kristian Bexar does his best to carve a place for Henry in this triangle of circumstance.

Despite these limitations, Sanctuary City presents an important and timely story that sheds light on the human aspects of immigration and how undocumented immigrants take sanctuary. Martyna Majok's script offers a personal, nuanced and compassionate exploration of the lives affected by immigration policies. The play successfully prompts the audience to reflect on their own perspectives and challenges societal notions surrounding the topic. Despite the details I’ve mentioned here, the play's timely themes and subject matter make it a worthwhile experience for those interested in the struggle of our undocumented friends.

Sanctuary City

by Martyna Majok

directed by Andrea Nunez

Ground Floor Theatre


May 19 - June 03, 2023

Ground Floor Theatre

979 Springdale Rd

Austin, TX, 78702


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