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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

26 Miles

Also see Susan's review of Full Circle

A Christmas Carol
Zabryna Guevara and Laura C. Harris
26 Miles, the play by Quiara Alegría Hudes now onstage at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, demonstrates that good ideas are not enough to create a satisfying theatrical experience. The premise is good, much of the language is poetic, but the work has a crippling lack of drama that makes its 90-minute run time seem to go on forever.

The 15-year-old heroine Olivia (Laura C. Harris), like the playwright, was born into two worlds—her father is Jewish, her mother Cuban-born, and she has much lighter skin than her mother—and doesn't feel at home in either one. She lives with her father, Aaron (Michael Frederic), who is remarried to an unseen woman Olivia hates, and rarely hears from her mother, Beatriz (Zabryna Guevara), whose marriage to Manuel (Triney Sandoval) outwardly seems more comfortable. The year is 1986, before cell phones and social networking.

The motion of the drama is external: after a trauma at home, Olivia takes off with her mother on a cross-country road trip, during which they get to know more about each other. The problem is that it's all talk rather than action, and KJ Sanchez has staged it on a set and background projections (designed by Daniel Conway) so stark that most of the conversations might as well take place in Beatriz's house. Without much momentum to the drama, the good parts get swallowed up in sameness and boredom.

Harris succeeds in playing an artless, searching teenager without becoming precious or irritating. Guevara portrays fierce and conflicting emotions without slipping into the caricature of the "hot-tempered Latina." The men have less to do, but Sandoval stands out in the small role of a rapturous tamál vendor in the mountains of South Dakota.

Round House Theatre
26 Miles
October 28th – November 22nd
By Quiara Alegría Hudes
Olivia: Laura C. Harris
Aaron/Joe/Attendant/Reader 2: Michael Frederic
Beatriz: Zabryna Guevara
Manuel/Tamál Seller/Uemura/Reader 1: Triney Sandoval
Directed by KJ Sanchez
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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