Playwright Boni B. Alvarez raises some intriguing questions in his current play, AMERICA ADJACENT. In pursuit of the American Dream, pregnant Filipina women risk everything to give their children a better future – a goal even more perplexing because the mothers-to-be are from well-to-do families in their own country. Then why take the chance on arrest, humiliation, incarceration, and deportation in order to give their child that prized commodity – U.S. citizenship? Author Alvarez stays loyal to his Filipino heritage – and the story of his forebears who braved coming to a strange foreign country to settle. Filipino-Americans constitute the third largest Asian population in the U.S., and it may be time for their story to come to light. Through the eyes – and pen – of Alvarez, that time is now.
AMERICA ADJACENT tries to answer some of these absorbing inquiries by following the lives of six pregnant women crammed into a one-bedroom one-bath unit in East Hollywood. Constantly afraid of being caught, these six ladies (Toni Katano, Angela T. Baesa, Evie Abat, Sandy Velasco, Arianne Villareal, and Samantha Valdellon) live in both fear and hope as the date of their delivery approaches. The administrator of the home (Hazel Lozano) is tough but also compassionate as she tries to allay their fears and encourage them to have healthy, happy infants – all the while keeping an eye on the bottom line.
Slowly, personal stories begin to emerge as the group is locked together in forced intimacy. There is the tale of the woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant, much less have a baby and return to the Philippines. And then there is a timid teen who longs to return to the father of her baby, the uncle who raised her. Each female has a tale, and their telling connects one to the other. A lot is happening under the guise of calm and monotony.
Director Jon Lawrence Rivera manages to make the lives of these six women interesting – and sometimes even gripping. The ensemble cast works well together to help the show come alive. At the same time, there is a static quality to six people trapped together in a small space. As one audience member quipped, “It’s kind of repetitive…the same things happens over and over.” Maybe that’s the point in today’s world. One issue which may have deserved greater exposure: Does going through the expense, fear, loneliness, and pain required to deliver a baby in the U.S. mean that the expectant mothers are from a second-rate place? A place not as good as the one where their offspring will be born? Otherwise, why risk so much for so little?
America Adjacent runs through March 24, 2019, with performances at 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, at 3 p.m. on Sundays, and at 8 p.m. on Mondays. The Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 ½ North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Tickets range from $15 to $41. For information and reservations, call 213-761-7061 or 866-811-4111 or go online.