We hear lots about immigration on our airwaves lately, most of it from white guys in Washington. Silvia Gonzáles’s Boxcar, presented by Repertorio Español (in Spanish with simultaneous translation) puts a human face on that bogeyman “the illegal” by introducing us to five devoted family men—ranging from a middle-aged dad to a preppy anthro major—scrunched into close quarters on a treacherous rail journey across the border.
While at times providing a moving snapshot from the front lines (one man is reduced to drinking his own piss), the script suffers dramaturgically. Crammed onto a small platform for most of the piece’s 75 minutes, the characters bond and tell stories, while conflict remains offstage. A subplot about a torn Latino border guard does open things up, but his stiff policy debates with a crudely drawn redneck supervisor only grind the play to a halt. The elegantly designed and fiercely acted Repertorio production—under the sure hand of founding artistic director René Buch—enhances things aesthetically, but as politics, Boxcar could practically serve as a commercial for the Bush “reforms,” which would gladly offer these men safe passage as “guest workers.” Maybe the more complex drama lies in what awaits those lucky enough to walk out of the boxcar and straight into Wal-Mart.