The Labyrinth Theater Company’s new show, which it has entitled “Installation on America” and calls a weekend-long “guerilla theater/pop-up performance art/installation that unmasks the horrors inflicted on Latinx families at our southern border,” begins steeped in Americana.
On Commerce Street right outside the Cherry Lane Theater, where the show was presented three times on Thursday evening and will be presented three more times both tonight and tomorrow for free, a woman dressed in red, white and blue hands out an American flag, while another costumes as the Statue of Liberty carries a torch, while a man dressed in a Fourth of July patriotic shorts and shirt sings “Take me Out To The Ball Game,” and then sings the praises of the American pastime. “What I love about the game is that it encourages debate.”
The audience is then ushered into the lobby of the theater, where we’re offered apple pie and a man who looks like a carnival barker and talks as fast as an auctioneer riffs on the American Dream, ending “Just like you, just like me, free.” This is followed by a man in a cowboy hat reminiscing about his grandfather, who crossed the border to El Paso when he was 12 years old, got a job in a slaughterhouse, joined the Army, fought in the Battle of the Bulge earning three purple hearts, made a life and a home for his family. “Mateo Martinez had a heart attack shortly after I was born in 1967.”
Then we are led into the theater proper, where we are confronted with a family in cage. A bored guard stands watch. Later, another agent is annoyed when the child stares at him. “I’m doing my job,” he says harshly. “What do you want me to do? Turn your head.”
“Installation on America” is about a half hour of monologues, short scenes, symbolic moments, a pitch to contribute to RAICES and the ACLU and a pointed and poignant slideshow of immigrants and refugees over the last century, which includes a depressingly relevant quote from Anne Frank:
“Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated.Children come back from school to find that their parents have disappeared. Women return from shopping to find their houses sealed, their families gone.”
Labyrinth Theater “was born out of protest” 27 years ago – initially called the Latino Actors Base, it protested American theater’s “rejection of Latinx actors” – “and today we speak again through our work.”