×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Off Broadway Review: ‘Miss You Like Hell’

This overstuffed new musical, co-written by Pulitzer winner Quiara Alegria Hudes, at least has lovely melodies by Erin McKeown.

With:
Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gizel Jiménez,  Danny Bolero, David Patrick Kelly, Michael Mulheren, Latoya Edwards, Marinda Anderson, Andrew Cristi, Shawna M. Hamic, Marcus Paul James.

Immigration, parental absence and cyber-relationships all figure in to the road trip musical “Miss You Like Hell,” an earnest — and now very Trump-topical — show that too often gets stuck in a traffic jam of multiple themes, characters and storylines. The book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, writer of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Water by the Spoonful” and the Tony-winning musical “In the Heights,” has the same longing spirit of both of those tenderhearted shows. Now playing at Off Broadway’s Public Theater after a premiere in late 2016 at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse, “Miss You Like Hell” — an exploration and refinement of Hudes’ earlier play “26 Miles” — is overstuffed with ideas and incidents that don’t add up to a sweeping, satisfying whole.

Long-absent mom Beatriz (Daphne Rubin-Vega) unexpectedly arrives at the doorstep of her 16-year-old, half-Latina daughter Olivia (Gizel Jiménez), who is living with her father in Philadelphia. Beatriz wants her to go on a weeklong road trip for some much-deferred mommy time, but Olivia, with her heart broken too many times by the mother who abandoned her, is understandably wary.

Beatriz is concerned about her daughter’s dark demeanor, especially after reading the blog by the literature-loving Olivia, “Calling All Castaways,” which reveal hints of suicide.

Unbeknownst to Olivia is the fact that this cross-country journey has another purpose: The trip will end in an immigration hearing for the Mexico-born Beatriz, and where the daughter’s testimony could help her mother from being deported.

But the show almost stalls just as it begins, starting with Beatriz’ sketchy 4 a.m. arrival, the vagueness of Olivia’s unseen father, and the too-quick-to-be-true acceptance of the road trip invite.

The human touches of the mother-daughter dynamic are the most appealing part of the show. Rubin-Vega (Tony-nominated for “Rent” and “Anna in the Tropics”) is fierce and funny as the hard-driving, quick-witted mother, while still owning her character’s many imperfections. Jiménez gives a break-out performance as the damaged daughter, who finds solace with like-minded millennials on the internet. She treads the line between self-possessed toughness and walking-wounded with complete authenticity.

In the tradition of road trip narratives, mother and daughter encounter colorful characters (including a retired gay couple with a mission of their own, played with quirky charm by David Patrick Kelly and Michael Mulheren) as well as hardships and setbacks (car problems, an arrest, clearing up an old marijuana misdemeanor).

The production, staged by Lear deBessonet, is low-tech to a fault, with an undistinguished set, basic choreography/movement and minimal use of an ensemble. However, singer-songwriter Erin McKeown makes an impressive stage debut with music that is eclectic and appealing, though the lyrics she co-wrote with Hudes are too often an odd mix of fleeting grace and awkwardness.

Still, there’s some lovely melodies, including Rubin-Vega’s “Over My Shoulder;” “Tamales,” sung with tenderness by Danny Bolero as a widower they encounter along the way; and “Yellowstone,” sung by Latoya Edwards, a devoted fan follower of Olivia’s lonely-teen blog and who becomes a side-trip destination. And by the end, it’s hard not to be moved by the newly earned parent-child bond, by lessons learned on a road well-traveled and, ultimately, by walls that stand in the way of loving families.

Off Broadway Review: 'Miss You Like Hell'

Newman Theater at the Public Theater; 299 seats: $90 top; reviewed April 5, 2018; opens April 10, 2018. Running time: 1 HOUR, 45 MIN.

Production: The Public Theater presents a musical in one act with book and lyrics by Quiara Alegría Hudes; music and lyrics by Erin McKeown.

Crew: Directed by Lear deBessonet; choreography, Danny Mefford; sets, Riccardo Hernandez; costumes, Emilio Sosa; lighting, Tyler Micoleau; sound, Jessica Paz; music director, Cody Owen Stine; orchestrations, Charlie Rosen & Erin McKeown; production stage manager, Scott Taylor Rollison.

Cast: Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gizel Jiménez,  Danny Bolero, David Patrick Kelly, Michael Mulheren, Latoya Edwards, Marinda Anderson, Andrew Cristi, Shawna M. Hamic, Marcus Paul James.

More Music

  • Obit Obituary Placeholder

    Phillip Kovac, Concert Industry Veteran, Dies at 65

    Phillip Kovac, a veteran concert promoter, transportation executive and music manager, died in Los Angeles following a battle with PSP, a rare form of Parkinson’s. He was 65. The brother of longtime Motley Crue manager and Eleven Seven Music Group CEO Allen Kovac, Phillip was laid to rest at his home in Houston Texas on [...]

  • Soft Power review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Soft Power'

    The “culture-clash musical” is a familiar template, in which a white American protagonist — waving the flag of individuality, optimism and freedom — trumps and tramps over the complexities of that which is foreign, challenging or “other.” David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s “Soft Power,” the new “play with a musical” at Off Broadway’s Public [...]

  • Brandi Carlile Gets Red-Hot and 'Blue'

    Brandi Carlile Gets Red-Hot and 'Blue' Saluting Joni Mitchell at Disney Hall

    If nothing else was established by Brandi Carlile’s live recreation of Joni Mitchell’s 1971 “Blue” album — and plenty else was — it was that the 38-year-old singer has nerves even steelier than her vocal cords are pliable. Mitchell is as impossible to emulate as a ridiculously tricky singer, songwriter and picker as they come, which [...]

  • Rufus Wainwright Signs With BMG for

    Rufus Wainwright Signs With BMG for New Studio Album

    Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright has signed a new global recordings agreement with BMG to release his upcoming studio album. The still-untitled album, Wainwright’s ninth of original material and first since 2012, is described in the announcement as “a return to form and his most accessible album to date.” To that end, it is “the bookend” to [...]

  • E23071117.JPGMÉXICO, D.F., Decease-Artist/Deceso-Artistas.- Existe el mito

    Janis Joplin Biographer Explores the Legend's Love of Musical Desegregation

    New York Times bestselling author Holly George-Warren had an intimate discussion with moderator Scott Goldman at the Grammy Museum on Monday, discussing her new book “Janis: Her Life and Music,” which was followed by a special performance by the singer Pearl. The book was released in October, preceding likely interest in a film adaptation of [...]

  • Jagged Little Pill Business of Broadway

    Listen: How 'Jagged Little Pill' Will Rock Broadway

    “Jagged Little Pill” wasn’t originally written with Broadway in mind — but the songs on Alanis Morissette’s smash-hit 1995 album do exactly what good musical theater songs should do, according to the upcoming show’s creators and producers. Listen to this week’s podcast below: The team explained why on Variety‘s theater podcast, “Stagecraft,” in an episode [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content