REVIEW: REFUGE at Curious Theatre Company

by Edwin Lobach

This show. Just, wow. It’s oh-my-god. It’s holy crap! It’s all of the feels. Stunning and breathtaking. I was frequently holding back crying. The tears were frequent. I was absolutely stirred in emotion. I’m not a hype-man, nor am I a part of Curious Theatre’s marketing team (albeit maybe my favorite theatre to review). I’m a theatre critic and I am much honored to be one of the first to review the world premiere
of Refuge.

This production is a long way coming. As if the creators, too, had to make their own slog across the calor of the pandemic. Yet after years of workshopping, rewriting, introducing music, finally it was premiered at Curious on March 5, 2022. Originally written by playwright Andrew Rosendorf, it was transformed into a musical a year later—not long after director Dee Covington said it should be—with the help of Satya Jnani Chávez and Mari Meza-Burgos. This extraordinary story is about a young female immigrant (Chávez) crossing the Mexican-American border into a white man’s ranch (Erik Sandvold). Hot on her trail is border patrol Martina (GerRee Hinshaw) who is late with child.

The set (Markas Henry) was minimal which compliments well with the moody lighting (Richard Devin) and the very few props (Wayne Breyer). Backdropping the stage is Carlos Frésquez’s large, saintly mural. At first glance the stage seems completely empty but, like in Beauty and the Beast, everything came to life. Moreover, not long into the show one begins to forget the puppets are puppets. They are a
dangerous desert snake (Josue Miranda), an enduring wolf (Sam Gilstrap), and a loyal pup named Steph (Lisa Hori-Garcia) and without them I would have had less rocks lumping the back of my throat as I held back the tears. Adolfo Romero designed the puppets and the puppeteers acted them out, along with growls and barks.

The show is in both in English and Spanish, and a rather even mix of the two. My Spanish is very limited but the context of the dialogue is so complete that I hadn’t any trouble understanding. Somewhat similar to seeing In the Heights, not knowing the Spanish didn’t take away my contextual understanding. Instead it enriched the story, by which I mean made me cry a bunch, and not necessarily for its sadness. It was beautiful.

All to say, I’m just telling it how it I saw it. If I had to say anything negative I would say that I could predict nearly the whole story as soon as the plot was underway. I write a bit myself and so I know how writers write. After a while all stories are the same. But that doesn’t change the fact that the execution can’t be perfect and even very different. This show does that. It is different and honest and is culturally
significant to the setting.

Refuge is a production not to miss this year. As if my above ravings aren’t enough, I have to see it again. As it is a part of the National New Play Network “Rolling World Premiere” I believe it has a shot to pick up steam and become something even bigger. Wouldn’t you want to be able to say you saw it first? With the original cast even? Refuge is stealing ones breath away now until April 9. For tickets or more information visit curioustheatre.org or call 3036230524.

 

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