nytheatre.com review by Joshua Scher
Citizen Mendez, by Jack Shea, takes an ambitious look at the
concept and consequences of borders. Wisely, the play stays grounded,
veering away from esoteric or ideological viewpoints, and choosing
instead the personal over the political.
August 15, 2003
Set somewhere on the Californian/Mexican border, the play dances among three separate stories on one devastating night. Mayfair and Angel are two Border Patrol Agents who spend the majority of their nightshifts struggling to stay warm and make each other laugh. Jose and a very pregnant Marta are a young Mexican couple hiding high in the mountains on their way to freedom. And in the desert valley, in a physically warm but emotionally cold house, are Sharon and John, an estranged, self-proclaimed YUPPIE couple.
The stakes are sky high for everyone right from the get-go. Mayfair and Angel are desperate to get a grip on life—whether it’s impending child support court dates or fierce competition with their colleagues, the two can’t seem to catch a break. Jose nurses severe wounds inflicted by drug smugglers, while Marta tries to control her labor pains, all the while knowing they must keep moving. And Sharon pushes John for them to have a baby, though he is more interested in delivering foals and playing golf. As the play unfolds, the three stories invade each other creating even more complications as they merge into one tale.
Surprisingly, the Border Agent thread proves to be the most compelling one. Though heartfelt, the other two stories have been told before to the point where they seem stereotypes. Whereas, Mayfair’s and Angel’s is the most original take on the Mexican immigration situation.
Unfortunately for all, the dialogue seems inauthentic, shackling the characters with exposition rather than driving them with wants. Nevertheless, all of the actors worked hard to and still succeeded in telling the story. Overall, Citizen Mendez forces one to consider how destructive, not descriptive, arbitrary invisible lines can be.