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Sanctuary City”
TheaterWorks, Hartford

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

A Timely “Sanctuary City” at TheaterWorks                                                     

The plight of “dreamers”, those individuals who have lived in the United States without official authorization since coming to the country as a minor, are the central characters in “Sanctuary City”. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Martyna Majok’s moving drama is the current offering at TheaterWorks in Hartford.

Sanctuary City”, set mostly in a New Jersey apartment from 2001 to 2006, follows two characters, B (Grant Kennedy Lewis) and G (Sara Gutierrez), young friends who face various challenges as undocumented persons in America.

The first half of the play, depicted in short, non-linear episodic sequences, details B and G’s relationship history from high school and up.  The friendship becomes strained when the situation changes significantly for G leaving, B left playing catch-up.  A perceptive study of friendship, at its core the play is really about finding home, keeping home and making a home that gives you safe harbor.  Without politicizing this polarizing topic, Majok succeeds in showing the human side of an ongoing issue that continues to divide this country.

The actors, who also include an acerbic, funny Mishka Yarovoy who arrives midpoint and provides the catalyst for the rest of the play, are all terrific.  Guitierrez is a whirlwind of emotions and reserved passion while the sad and desperate Lewis matches her scene for scene in perfect counterpoint.  It must be pointed out, however, that the playwright doesn’t really give much credibility to the motivations of these characters or the background of their connection to each other.  Most motivations (especially for “G”) go unexplained and while there is often ambiguity within relationships, some fine tuning here would help these otherwise compelling characters.

The production is aided exquisitely by Emmie Finckel’s spare and haunting set design, Paul Whitaker’s lighting, Fabian Obispo’s sound and, notably, Bermudez’s crucial projection and video design.  Long Wharf Theatre Artistic Director Jacob G. Patron co-directs the play with Pedro Bermudez.  Running 90 minutes without intermission, “Sanctuary City” is ultimately a timely, moving tribute to the dreamers and their heartfelt aspirations.

“Sanctuary City” continues at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street in Hartford, through April 25th. For further information and ticket reservations call the theatre box office 860.527.7838 or visit: wwwtwhartford.org.                      

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