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BWW Review: 72 MILES TO GO Brings a Story of Familial Love and Heartbreak to the Alley Theatre

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The production runs from October 20th through November 14th

BWW Review: 72 MILES TO GO Brings a Story of Familial Love and Heartbreak to the Alley Theatre
Melissa Molano as Eva and Christopher Salazar as Christian in
Alley Theatre's production of 72 miles to go...
Photo by Lynn Lane

A great character often has better things to do than be the subject of a stage play. What's most remarkable about the script for Hilary Bettis' 72 Miles to Go is how every character has a life beyond the central issue. The American immigration system is a cause of great heartbreak in their lives, but it's not the point of them. The characters struggle with love, settling down, staying sober, joining the army, and not being able to maintain a conversation without making jokes. They are human beings first, not walking allegories.

The title references the desert separating Mexico and the United States and, by extension, the separation of a family in America from the matriarch (Briana J. Resa) who had been deported. The story offers us glimpses into their lives over an eight-year period. The mother's presence is always there, as is the fear of more separations to come. In some scenes they talk about the problem directly, in others it becomes like wallpaper to their other issues. They feel pain, but they don't want to feel pain. At times they'll try to avoid their feelings. I appreciated how the father (Orlando Arriaga) and his son (Juan Sebastian Cruz) try to distance themselves in very different ways. One protects himself with humor and the other turns to militaristic stoicism.

Their humanity was reinforced by the depth of the performances. I could spend the rest of this review listing off believable moments. The stand-out motif is how the use of touch, or lack thereof, enhanced the subtle expressions of familial love. One moment, in particular, let's just say it was a bold choice that used a "pregnant pause" to great effect.

I have to mention the performance marks the official debut of the new members of the Alley's resident acting company: Melissa Milano (Eva) and Christopher Salazar (Billy). After previously appearing in other Alley productions (notably The Winter's Tale both in supporting roles) they've now taken the theatre on full time. We'll be seeing them in many, many Alley shows going forward. Their first is a great debut, showing off their relatability onstage. I hope their future roles take them to new, strange, and exciting places to show off their range.

The Alley's production offers 72 Miles to Go a second chance at a world premiere after the first one was cut short thanks to the worldwide pandemic. After being developed as part of the Alley's All New Festival, it's heartwarming to see how well the script turned out. I can attest to witnessing tears as the lights went up. I'm excited for the future of the piece and I believe it'll go places.

72 Miles to Go performs through November 14th. Tickets start at $30. Visit AlleyTheatre.org to purchase your ticket. Email boxoffice@alleytheatre.org or call 713.220.5700 with any questions.


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