Something unspeakable must have happened in the remote native villages of Points of Departure‘s unnamed Latin American country, because people can’t bring themselves to talk about it. Part of the problem is that their language, also unnamed, is banned. Villagers who flee to the Spanish-speaking towns are forced to register with the police, which limits their movements in the name of national security. They cling to their adopted Spanish names, fearful that the sound of their real names will tip off the authorities and land them in jail or worse.
There’s rich dramatic potential in Michael John Garcés’s premise, best seen in Act I’s tense encounters between relocated villagers and Marquez (Alfredo Narciso), an émigré returning from the U.S. (identified only as “There”). Garcés restricts his dialogue to elliptical, truncated sentences. Characters interrupt each other with vague evasions, never saying anything specific. But these linguistic idiosyncracies wear out their welcome well before intermission. Act II, which focuses on the traumatized refugee Petrona (Sandra Delgado) and her fragmented memories, grows more abstract and harder to follow. Already overlong by a good hour, the evening becomes interminable with the addition of Cristian Amigo’s superfluous songs, languidly sung in Spanish by Marisa Echeverría. More’s the pity, because there’s an achingly lyrical scene late in the play, when a feverish Petrona launches into a bravura litany of loss and anger. It’s a chilling moment, but by then playgoers will have tuned out in frustration at the opportunities squandered here.