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Target Margin Puts Some English on It

The ESL P.O.V.--with panda heads.
Sue Kessler

Without language, we’re just a bunch of animals. Second Language—a festive collaboration between LaGuardia Community College students and Target Margin Theater—has some fun with that idea. Growls punctuate the dance soundtrack; an aquarian-woman demonstrates how struggling with English makes her feel like a fish out of water. Later, panda heads appear and city life resembles a behavioral zoo. In brief fragments like these, the youthful cast—some from Queens immigrant backgrounds—explores what it might mean to acquire a new tongue and call a foreign culture home.

The group devised this abstract performance collage from ESL textbooks, cast members’ stories, and interviews. Shaping it, director David Herskovits admirably emphasizes the strangeness of relearning the world as an adult, rather than revisiting socio-political platitudes. At times Second Language aims to disorientate, leaving the audience unsure if we’re hearing dialogue as a newcomer does or listening to broken English. (“You mistake yourself heavily!”) The frantic, peripatetic rhythm often cuts scenes unfortunately short before much sense arises from them. But these vibrant performers seem to have too much fun breaking into silly dances to mind—joining their party might be the best form of cultural immersion.


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