If you were a Sesame Street fan in the mid-’90s, you probably witnessed the launch of Carlo Albán’s acting career, when he got chummy onscreen with Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Ten years earlier, Albán was busy with a bigger life change: immigrating from Ecuador at age seven, minus legal documentation. Albán recounts this frequently harrowing story in his solo show Intríngulis, now playing at INTAR in a production directed by David Anzuelo. The piece provides a gripping, if somewhat overlong, immersion in the alien’s plight.
In a series of witty monologues, Albán plays himself at various ages, plus family members and other undocumented workers whose ordeals resemble his. The incidents range from funny—his dad’s horror upon discovering his brother’s Nine Inch Nails CDs—to agonizing, when his family learns that their 12-year quest for citizenship may be in vain. We watch Albán’s consciousness widen as he tries pot, begins to comprehend the U.S.’s fraught relationship with Latin America, suffers from anti-immigrant paranoia following 9/11, and grapples with his divided identity.
Albán’s saga of arrival and assimilation would have benefited from a little snappy editing: He’s an engaging performer, but talks too long, occasionally veering into PSA territory. But there’s lots that’s lively here—between anecdotes, he belts out rousing renditions of Latin American folk songs, and understated projections illustrate the tales.
“Intríngulis,” Albán explains, means “a complex web,” which is what he confronted in the U.S.—a place far less friendly to newcomers than Sesame Street’s harmonious neighborhood suggests. Luckily, Albán found homes in both.