The conceit of Sarah Jones’s latest one-woman show is simple: A collection of immigrants assembles in a shoddy Queens café to share poetry, memories, ruminations, and complaints. It’s a genre pioneered by artists like Anna Deveare Smith, who seems to be Ms. Jones’s most immediate forebear. Across the bridges and tunnels of the tri-state area, Jones finds enough foreign nationals to fill a session at the U.N. But where others might see only difference, she uncovers commonalities. From the Chinese woman who must come to terms with her daughter’s sexuality to a forlorn Mexican construction worker pining for his lover who couldn’t cross the border, the monologues weave a web of shared suffering, humor, and hope.
The end result is a series of portraits of Shakespearean scope. Jones has the same empathic understanding of character and unwillingness to judge that marks the work of the finest dramatists. If the Bard has the monopoly on inventing the human, then what Jones offers here is a small-scale reinvention. There is an air of selectivity in her creation: At no point does she embody the racist or the reactionary. But the world that she createsis a compelling one, and we cannot help but wish it were our own.