I always look forward to productions at The Fountain Theatre as I've come to expect to be taken some place I've never been before. They provide theatre that strives to take the audience on a journey of discovery.
That was surely the case as the lights dimmed and the 90-minute world premiere of Detained opened us to the stories of real people whose lives have been upended through their being detained by U.S. Department of Justice' activities designed to remove the undocumented and returning them to "where they came from."
Opening the play, Claudia (Christine Avila) sets the scene matter of factly without emotion with just the facts of the situation and provides the thread throughout the play that holds it all together.
Story by story, case by case, the excellent cast, takes us on the harrowing journey faced by many individuals who are forced to deal with their predicament-apprehended by ICE-and detained some for months or years at a time. We learn, contrary to what we may think about how our justice system works or, for many, doesn't work.
The sparce, modular set animated with video works well and the characters weave in and out of each scene seamlessly flowing from one character, one situation to the next. While the cast members assume different roles, director Mark Valdez, has a clear command of the action, keeping attention on the characters, based on real people caught up in the result of their undocumented circumstances.
Detained ably hit all the marks as The Fountain resumes after coping with the pandemic. Superb ensemble acting and a script that could have read more as a Time Magazine article, but was vividly brought to life.
Judy Rabinovitz, special counsel for the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, has lived the story and collaborated with playwright France-Luce Benson and the result is an enthralling theatre piece that provoked the audience to look beyond "illegal" with compassion and understanding.
All of the stories in the play are true.
From the press materials: "Detained
is based on interviews with longtime U.S. residents held in immigration detention, and with their family members, advocates, attorneys and representatives of ICE. ... It offers a heart-wrenching and in-depth look at the human lives behind the policies, and celebrates the strength and determination of the ordinary people who must fight against an unjust system while keeping their hope and faith in humanity intact."
The play was followed by a fascinating Q&A session with Gabriella Domenzain of The Center for Immigration Law and Policy at UCLA , Dani Pregis, whose story was depicted In one of the vignettes, collaborators Rabinowitz and Benson and the cast facilitated by The Fountain's artistic director Stephen Sachs. Most of the audience remained and it was apparent by the many questions that the play had made an impact.