The Moving Company created Refugia through a series of workshops in response to the current refugee crisis (at a talk-back about immigration after Sweet Land last weekend, a panelist said that there is more forced migration now than in any time in the history of the world!). The work is made up of eight stories about refugees, some of them interrelated. One of the most powerful is the recurring story of an Algerian couple who immigrated to France, where they had a son, and are now seeing their son pulled into the terrorist movement. The parents do anything they can to get their on back, which feels painfully real. Are parents of terrorists proud of them? Or do they want to thwack them over the head with a suitcase and yell, "you idiot, I raised you better than that!" We also follow a group of women fleeing from Syria to Germany, a scared and lost child at the Arizona/Mexico border, and a Polish couple in 1957 who are attempting to immigrate to Israel from USSR. Put together, these stories present a powerful case that we're all immigrants, we're all refugees, and we're all looking for the same thing - a safe place to call home.
Unfortunately, this beautiful and important message was muddied a bit in the telling. In a show that pushes three hours, the final comic epilogue dragged on way too long and lessened the effect of what we had just experienced. On it's own it's an amusing skit filled with the familiar MoCo silliness mixed with the profound (which I happen to adore), but in this case it didn't seem to serve the story. Another issue I had with the show is the all too liberal use of fat suits. I know that it's part of the many costumes the eight-person ensemble donned to transform into different characters, but putting padding on a woman and then making a joke about it is not the same as putting on a wig. If they wanted to show women with a range of body types, they should have cast women with a range of body types (and that goes for all of the theaters, BTW). Another thing to think about is the perspective from which these stories are being told (which my friend Laura writes about on One Girl, Two Cities).
|the cast of Refugia (photo by Dan Norman)|
So there you have it, the good, the bad, the ugly. As I said to my fellow TCTB, if one of the goals of theater is to start a conversation, then Refugia is a raging success! As long as we keep making art that matters, trying new things, being open about how we feel about what we're doing or what we're seeing, and take the time to listen to each other, I think we'll be OK.
Refugia continues on the Guthrie's McGuire Proscenium stage through June 11.
*Read more opinions on this show from One Girl, Two Cities and Compendium.
**For more on representation in theater and the media see Mu's Charles Francis Chan Jr's Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery in the Guthrie Studio, and Walking Shadow's Red Velvet at the Southern, both closing this weekend.