Review: ‘Wall of Liberty’

The Glorious Repertory Company has imagined a racially volatile period in the future (1998) when the U.S. government has erected a monolithic "Wall of Liberty" along the Mexican-American border as a dam against the wave of illegals who relentlessly strive to reach a better life in the "land of liberty." Though infused with a great deal of passion by its committed ensemble, the production is limited by a meandering script that never comes to any resolutions or conclusions. In fact, thanks to the engrossing video designs and projections of David D. Willis, this one-acter works much better as a multimedia presentation than it does as a drama.

The Glorious Repertory Company has imagined a racially volatile period in the future (1998) when the U.S. government has erected a monolithic “Wall of Liberty” along the Mexican-American border as a dam against the wave of illegals who relentlessly strive to reach a better life in the “land of liberty.” Though infused with a great deal of passion by its committed ensemble, the production is limited by a meandering script that never comes to any resolutions or conclusions. In fact, thanks to the engrossing video designs and projections of David D. Willis, this one-acter works much better as a multimedia presentation than it does as a drama.

At the center of the action is monumentally ambitious Los Angeles-based local television newswoman Beth Anderson (Gay Storm), who is confronted with the specter of the perceived Latino overrun in both her professional and personal life. She has been ousted from her weeknight anchor slot by a Latina (Elizabeth O’Connell) and is forced by her chauvinistic boss, Lindsay (Jose A. Garcia), to anchor the dreaded weekend news.

At home, her housekeeper, Luz (Chi Chi Navarro), has developed an unnervingly close bond with Beth’s young son, Justin (Will Rothhaar), making Beth feel like the outsider. Beth’s subsequent efforts to stage a news event at the Wall of Liberty propels her career to the national level but causes a personal tragedy that estranges her completely from Justin.

Director and co-writer Debbie Devine makes excellent use of Willis’ video designs to seamlessly segue between the competing realities in Beth’s life. Devine is hampered, however, by a text that really doesn’t venture very far in its storytelling. And what definitely does not work is the production’s clumsy attempts to infuse the story with a pseudo-ritualistic representation of the ominous Latino presence as personified by the hovering figure of the zoot-suit-clad Lobo (Hector Aristizabol), who comes off as a rather seedy ripoff of the Pachuco of Luis Valdez’s “Zoot Suit.”

A great plus to the production are the performances of Storm, Navarro and Rothhaar. Storm exudes glamour and ambition from every pore as the single-minded media goddess who would sacrifice everything she holds dear just to “get the shot.” Counter-balancing perfectly is Navarro, whose earth mother Luz actually appears to envelop Justin with the tangible power of her warmth and love. Rothhaar is excellent as the bright but sensitive child who has learned to distrust his mother and has come to depend solely on the nurturing Luz.

Also deserving of mention are Garcia’s effectively cool and manipulating Lindsay and Alan Goodson as Beth’s sympathetic cameraman, Frank.

Wall of Liberty

Opened and reviewed April 27, 1997; runs through June 15 - 24th Street Theatre: 99 seats; $10 top

Production

24th Street Theatre & Odyssey Theatre Ensemble present Glorious Repertory Company in a play in one act by Debbie Devine, Jan Johnson & Glorious Repertory Company. Producers, Jay McAdams, Ron Sossi & Jon White-Spunner. Director, Devine.

Cast

Gay Storm (Beth), Chi Chi Navarro (Luz), Hector Aristizabol (Lobo), Will Rothhaar (Justin), Jose A. Garcia (Lindsay), Alan Goodson (Frank), Eric Melton (Ben), Casey Mervine (Grown Justin), Cheryl Crabtree (Brenda), Sharon McMahon (Corey), Elizabeth O'Connell (Latina Anchor Woman).
Music director, Jacki Berger; set design, Victoria Profitt; lighting design, Kathi O'Donohue; original music, Richard Allen; costume design, Joan Stapleton-Francis; multimedia design/projections, David D. Willis. Running time: 80 min.
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