The poetic highlight of Enriques Journey arrives right after intermission. A spare flute solo creates a momentary dream space. Like a quiet memory of home, men and women symbolically work a farmers field. A woman passes among the workers serving the water of life. The scene is beautifully realized and important for what precedes and follows the harsh truths and brutal realities of immigration today.
The Fort Lewis College Department of Theatre has honored author Sonia Nazario by staging a complex yet clear adaptation of Enriques Journey. Nazarios reportage about a Honduran boys struggle to find his mother in the United States won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. Since then, Nazarios book has garnered many more awards and is taught on college campuses all over the country. This year, Fort Lewis has chosen the book for the colleges Common Reading Experience.
Playwright Anthony Garcia said at a dress rehearsal this week that adapting Nazarios massive undertaking was not difficult.
Sonia is such a good writer, he said, She made it easy. She gave me a blueprint.
The Denver-based playwright began the work last May and has been at the college only a few weeks in residence.
Garcia admitted that when he finished the play, he knew it would have to be trimmed. He and Director Felicia Meyer cut the script in half, he said. The piece has had one reading in Silverton and now its first staging in Durango.
The play has a very large cast, Garcia said. There are several composite characters. But Enrique, his mother, sister and María Isabel, are constant.
What makes the adaptation work is Garcias ability to simplify and intensify the story. The play leaps through time by having one character casually mention that four or 10 years have passed. Many theatrical devices are used such as the symbolic field scene or a river crossing, or night escapes, and most important harrowing train rides.
Credit goes to director Meyer for clarifying the relationships from the beginning. Enrique (played with energy and subtlety by Adam Montoya) inhabits one part of the stage to represent home in Honduras. His mother, Lourdes, (played convincingly with all of a mothers conflicts by Olivia Lopez ) stands opposite, consistently representing life in America. And the complicated drama of Enriques journey takes place center stage and throughout the theater.
Credit Set and Lighting Designer Greg Mitchell for a spectacular transformation of the theater into a nightmare of wire netting, concrete walls, cardboard backdrops and remarkable effects that heighten all the dramatic action.
Evocative music accompanies the play. Garcias collaborator, composer Daniel Valdez ,contributed three pieces. Music Director Jonathan Latta said he and his four-piece pit orchestra have improvised on that base judiciously adding sound effects to heighten the drama further. And then there is the rumble of the train coming from the sound board.
This fully realized workshop production runs about 90 minutes with intermission.
It should not be missed.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.