‘Ground’ breaks ground on issues of illegal immigration

The Channels Arts Pages | STAFF REVIEW

OONA O'TOOLE, Arts and Entertainment Editor

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Near the Mexican border of New Mexico, six people are dealing with the challenges of illegal immigration.

The show “Ground,” by Lisa Dillman, asks a lot of provocative questions that leave the audience wondering what is right and fair when it comes to citizenship in the U.S.

Michael R. Gros, the director, has put together an artful cast, and created a beautiful set, which make the play worth the $22 ticket. It is amazing to see what a small cast and crew can create on an even smaller stage of the Jurkowitz Theatre.

The stage functions as both an indoor and outdoor setting, with very minimal props. The effect that makes it stand out is a screen that projects images to fit each scene.

Zelda Preston, played by Jennifer Marco, inherits a pecan farm from her father, and is then faced with maintaining and staffing the groves. Her partner, Chuy, played by Mathematics Professor, Peter Rojas, is from Mexico and struggles with whether he should cart illegals over the border or not.

Zelda and Chuy are antagonized by Cooper Daniels, played by a veteran of the Theatre Group at City College, Robert Demetriou. Cooper is a part of the “Citizens Alliance,” which attempts to do their part and keep the illegals out of America.

Carl Zelaya is played by first time actor and City College student, Adrian Marquez. What Marquez may lack for in acting experience, he makes up for in life experience. Being an Iraq war veteran, Marquez is able to play a border patrolman very convincingly.

Marquez’s acting is on par with many of the seasoned actors in the show, and his chemistry is obvious on stage.

Carl grew up in a Mexican family, and many of his friends and family abandoned him when he became a border patrolman.

Zelda wonders why Carl would decide to be a “migra” (Spanish for immigration police), when he could have gone onto college or into the military.

In the play, Carl says, “I’d rather keep out an invasion than be apart of one.”

The play pulls from many modern day political events, and challenges the validity of the war in Iraq and the fairness of how illegal immigrants are being treated.

Dillman cleverly crafts the characters relationships, while still tackling a big issue. The backstories are fulfilling and the action is equally fulfilling.

She intertwines the title of her play “Ground” into the show seamlessly. It allows the audience to think of the word as more than just dirt—it expands the word to have a more universal meaning.

Chuy says, “The ground and me—we belong together,” when he is telling Zelda what her father always wanted.

The play is heavily influenced by Spanish. Probably every other word is foreign, but never detracts from the meaning of the play. Dillman intertwines the English and Spanish words perfectly to keep her play authentic.

Although the beginning of the play was a bit slow, it was necessary set-up for Act Two.

In Act Two, Angie Zelaya, played by Marisol Miller-Wave, is trying to find away to bring her “Tia” (Aunt) across the border to help her pregnant sister, Ines.

Ines, played by former City College student Maria Oliveira, has suffered a difficult pregnancy while her husband is abroad in Iraq.

Their situation puts the audience in a predicament—on one hand sympathizing for Ines, and on the other, wanting Angie to follow the law.

The rest of the show should be seen in person—a lot of twists and turns happen in Act Two that are worth experiencing for oneself.

To catch “Ground,” visit www.theatregroupsbcc.com for tickets. The show will be at the Jurkowitz Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sundays, April 23 to May 10. Tickets are $22 for general admission, $15 for students and $13 for seniors.

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