Review: “Immigrants: We Are Them, They Are Us” at The Tank

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  • Anthony J. Piccione, Associate New York Critic

Ever since the election of Donald Trump nearly three years, the topics of immigration and racism have come to the forefront on the national conversation, and have fueled many – in some cases uncomfortable, but consistently honest and necessary – discussions on these topics in the arts and the general public sphere. The latest example of such work was seen recently at The Tank, when the Asian-American Film Lab presented Cheryl L. Davis’s new play Immigrants: We Are Them, They Are Us for a brief limited engagement.

The development of the play – which is delved into during the packet that comes with the show program, as well as the lengthy talkback that followed the production – was uniquely unconventional, in that it was inspired by a wide variety of story submissions rooted in the common themes of immigration and xenophobia. The result is that we get several different individuals caught up in one short fable about bigotry, aspirations, profiling, and unintended consequences.

The moral of the story is a simple one: You never know someone’s full story, simply by looking at them and judging them based on little more than a few brief interactions. At least, that’s what a certain xenophobic character learned after calling the police, thinking it would lead to the capture of a teenager – a young man aspiring to be an artist – whom he assumed was a crook, simply on the basis of his appearance. Instead, it led to ICE capturing and detaining his close friend. It’s the type of story that could certainly be capable of making audience members on both sides of the political spectrum think about the topic on a very human level, in a way they might not have previously.

The play is staged wonderfully by Melissa Skirboll in The Tank’s intimate black box theater, and the ensemble of seven actors all do a fine job at bringing to life these characters. The set and lighting designs were relatively minimalistic, with the clear emphasis being on the script itself, aside from a brief memorable video projection toward the show’s beginning, to set the tone of the production.

 Unfortunately, the show only lasted for two performances, and I myself was lucky that I was able to catch the show before the end of its brief run. However, I found the play to be yet another entry into the increasing variety of thought-provoking works being presented on the topics of race, culture, and xenophobia, and I found myself intrigued to learn more about the work presented by the Asian-American Film Lab. If this play is any indicator, it’s certainly worth looking into, for all our readers.

 

IMMIGRANTS: WE ARE THEM, THEY ARE US

 “Immigrants: We Are Them, They Are Us” stars Robert KcKay, Mami Kimura, Toy Lei, Jennifer Betit Yen, Ariel Estrada, Georges Bridges, and Nicky Khor.

“Immigrants: We Are Them, They Are Us” is written by Cheryl Davis and directed by Melissa Skirball, featuring technical director Cara Ciccione, stage manager Blossom Johnson, producer Jennifer Betit Yen, and executive producer Ariel Estrada.

“Immigrants: We Are Them, They Are Us” – presented by Asian-American Film Lab – ended its run at The Tank, located at 312 W 36th Street, New York, NY, on February 19th. For more information, please visit www.film-lab.org.