Teatro Luna's new play "Crossed" explores immigration

Teatro Luna's new play "Crossed" explores immigration

Teatro Luna, Chicago's All-Latina Theatre Company, is performing a new play, "Crossed," in a new home in the Live Bait Theater on the North Side.

They have new creative leadership and many new cast members but the play, first workshopped last year under trying circumstances, still lives up to the old spirit of the company. That is to tell diverse stories about Latina culture.

I've seen many of the company's plays since they were founded in 2000.  Teatro Luna has spotlighted the talent of playwrights Tanya Saracho and Coya Paz, whose stars have risen and they have moved on.

The new generation of Teatro Luna, producer, Alexandra Meda, director, Miranda Gonzalez, and their writers and actresses, follow in their footsteps in this play "Crossed." Like many of Teatro Luna's previous plays, they tackle themes of identity and immigration.

The theme of homeland security links much of the play with some of the vignettes set in and around an imaginary airport. The play also explores themes of Afro-Latina identity as well as Latino and African-American race relations.

In one scene, two African-American customs agents harass a Latina entering the United States at an airport.

"What is your business in the United States?" they ask treating the U.S.-born Latina as if she were a foreigner

"I live here!" she exclaims.

"Do you have any family in Mexico, Canada or the Middle East?" they persist treating her as if she is a possible terror suspect.

The piece explores the racial tensions between the Latina and the African-American customs agents.

I have faced similar questions coming back into the United States. When I asked why they asked me so many questions and why they had to peruse my wallet and my notebooks, I was told, "If you don't like it, don't travel."

In this vignette Teatro Luna explores how Latinas/os are often seen as suspect because of how they look.

Another powerful vignette deals with the border patrol. But it wasn't at the U.S.-Mexico border but the sea border between Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, and the Dominican Republic. It explores how a Puerto Rican "watchman" keeps an eye out on the sea ready to report on Dominican migrants.

It's an interesting twist on an issue at the U.S.-Mexico where the Minuteman Project and other vigilante groups try to catch undocumented Mexican immigrants.

The play also puts a human face on the violence in Mexico and the story of one man who went missing while trying to sell his truck. He was just one of 400 people disappeared in one day.

The play shows how deportations impact the local community. (More than one million undocumented immigrants have been deported by the Obama Administration but the play is careful not to politicize the issue or blame politicians on the right or left by name.)

A vignette simply tells the story of a young girl found alone at home after her undocumented mother was deported. It carries a strong emotional punch.

A few pieces fell flat such as a musical burlesque that pointed to invasive airport security measures. Sexy dance moves didn't work in this vignette and I struggled to see how some of the musical numbers connected with the rest of the vignettes.

Overall, the play dispels myths about Latina identity and immigration issues living up to the play's subheadline "Immigrant equals Mexican?" It's not just a Mexican issue and the play explores the complexities.

Teatro Luna goes a long way to make us ponder these questions and make us laugh and cry at the same time.

The play runs through March 18.

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