BWW Review: LUNATIC 19'S, Finborough Theatre
Finborough Theatre hosts the world premiere of Tegan McLeod's first full length play, Lunatic 19's. Originally from Iowa, she moved to the UK to study at Oxford University and after a series of short plays she's tackling ICE and deportation in a show that starts quite strong but gets unfortunately sidetracked.
Gracie is recovering from a car crash that nearly killed her when she received an unexpected visit from Alec. The immigration enforcement officer is there to pick her up and drive her to Mexico, the country her family left when she was only five years old. What follows is a story of brutal violence, emotional intimacy, and chilling dehumanisation.
Gabriela Garcia delivers a defining performance. She's scathing and sarcastic in her critique, hitting her chaperone with biting humour and complete disdain for what he represents. She's essentially spotless in handling the material which, however, fails her in its ultimate lack of depth. Devon Anderson goes through the same issues, towering over her as the officer and owning the part of a marred man who refuses to take ownership of his own identity in an attempt to fit into a deeply flawed American society.
The issue with McLeod's script is that it's solid and sound until it isn't any longer. We might be led to believe that the sharp turn is taken on purpose: something horrible might have happened to Gracie during the ride for the change to happen and for her role as an unreliable narrator to be compromised even more - but this is never directly addressed, not even hinted at. Therefore, as presented by director Jonathan Martin, Lunatic 19's is fundamentally disappointing.
The dialogue becomes clunky and tacky, with plot-points that recall those of a bad police television drama. However, when McLeod's play is good, it really is good. She succeeds in portraying the shocking (albeit obviously dramatised) reality of immigrants in the United States, the immediacy and finality of ICE measures, the barbarous methods perpetrated by the officials, and the carelessness deployed by blind immigration politics and blatant racism but struggles with solidifying its nature and purpose.
Photo credit: Marian Medic