Enemy or ally. Police or criminal. Freedom or prison. Mexican or American.
These absolute dichotomies dominate mainstream discussions of immigration and contemporary Latinx culture. Dreamlandia, written by Octavio Solis, examines and occasionally destroys these dichotomies as it brilliantly delves into the US-Mexican border conflict in El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez.
The storyline of the show, which was adapted from Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño, follows a family caught in the crossfire of the conflict. Sock & Buskin’s performance provocatively opens with a nightmare in which Pepin, an adolescent boy played by Jorge Sanchez Garcia ’20, sees his mother dying in childbirth. As the stage clears, the scene quickly shifts to an equally unsettling reality: Lazaro, a disturbed man held by the Border Patrol, bursts out of a pile of garbage. Sebastián Otero Oliveras ’19, as Lazaro, delivers his shocking monologue with spectacularly convincing rage and terror.
These ominous opening scenes prepare the audience for a hard-hitting, and, at times, deeply terrifying performance. Director Sarah dAngelo does not shy away from intimately graphic violence and sex. She also isn’t afraid to include political commentary; she adds documentary footage to the show for added authenticity.
Initially, the plot is difficult to follow. Characters enter with little introduction, and you’re often not sure who is on whose side, but that’s the point. Unlike so many contemporary narratives, this show embraces complexity. The US Border Patrol (USBP) and cartel traffickers appear equally responsible and guilty. Celestino, an American citizen from Mexico, clearly represents the cartel, but the audience is left wondering about his alliance with the USBP. Marlon Jimenez Oviedo ’22 MFA embraces the role of Celestino with terrifying ease, adeptly shocking the audience with emotional and physical cruelty. Ana Rosa Marx ’18.5 also puts on a notable performance as Blanca, nimbly portraying a determined young woman on a quest to find her father.
Although at times confusing, Dreamlandia masterfully depicts the terrifying reality of a flawed immigration doctrine and effectively brings a far-away conflict close to the audience. Sock & Buskin’s performance is memorable both for its technical execution and timely critique of a cruel system.