Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Hudes, daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a Jewish father, writes about the Latinx experience in the United States, but this work never really gels; one scene follows another with little momentum. She wrote the book and lyrics for the musical, with music and lyrics by Erin McKeown, which follows the fraught relationship between a mother and daughter from opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The action begins when Beatriz (Karmine Alers), living undocumented in Los Angeles, arrives outside the Philadelphia home where her daughter Olivia (Valeria Morales) lives with her father, determined to take the 16-year-old girl away for some mother-daughter bonding. (Olivia, a blogger whose only emotional connections are with the "castaways" who follow her posts, recently dropped a hint that she was considering suicide.)
Olivia is understandably skeptical about thisand she doesn't know exactly what her mother plans to dobut they head off together into the heart of America. They meet a longtime gay couple (Bradley Mott and Lawrence Redmond), determined to get married in every one of the 50 states, and a kindhearted Peruvian immigrant (Carlos L. Encinias), who makes and sells tamales in South Dakota. One of Olivia's readers (powerful-voiced Kayla Gross) is a junior ranger at Yellowstone National Park, so Beatriz adds it to the itinerary. Despite her attempts to stay undetected, Beatriz briefly lands in jail following a routine police stop.
The problem is that, despite Lisa Portes' streamlined direction, the pieces never really add up to make a complete picture. The closest to a philosophy is "If we tie a raft together, are we really lost at sea?" Portes allows the action to spread out on Milagros Ponce de León's minimalist set of decorated platforms and a few pieces of furniture, given context by Thomas Ontiveros' projections.
Miss You Like Hell runs through March 1, 2020, on the mainstage at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney MD. For tickets and information, please call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
Book and lyrics by Quiara Alegria Hudes