“A Crossing” at BSC Promises and Delivers a Most Exciting Journey
“A Crossing-A Dance Musical” is being given a World Premiere at Barrington Stage Company through 10/16 and it is unlike any musical you have ever seen. It is described as a dance musical and while the piece has movement throughout directed and choreographed by BSC Associate Artist Joshua Bergasse in association with Alberto Lopez and the Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, it could just as easily be called a sung through musical as there is no dialogue and there are 22 different songs listed. The story of a group of Mexicans crossing the border into America couldn’t be more timely or topical so it might be called a relevant musical but in the end, it is through the dance depicting the hopes, struggles and challenges (emotional, mental, spiritual and physical) that elevates this work into fiercely original importance.
The story is provided by BSC Associate Artist Mark St. Germain. Primarily there is Giselle (the luminous Asley Perez Flanagan) and her grandfather or Abuelo Arturo (Carlos L. Encinas) who are fleeing the cartels of Mexico which have murdered her parents. She burns with a teenager’s just fury and would rather stay and fight but is persuaded to make the dangerous passage to America. Her lament, “Can’t Find My Way” from Zoe Sarnac’s effective original score pierces the heart.
Another set of characters are the pregnant, mistrustful Karina (Aline Mayagoitia) and Martin (Justin Gregory Lopez). She’s leaving an abusive relationship and he is on a quest to return to the son, Ernesto (a winning portrayal by Stefanie Renee Salyers) after he was deported. Also delineated in the cast are the feral Coyote (Omar Nieves) who is their guide to the other side. He provides as much menace as safety especially when he’s moving. His transitions into dance are seductively powerful, coiled with an exciting muscularity and grace. Our narrators for the journey are Sol (a passionate Andres Quintero) and Luna (warm and nurturing Monica Tulia Ramirez). They are costumed in black & white as Day of the Dead characters keeping our awareness of the fraught journey ever present in our minds.
The odyssey of these Mexicans to reach America are challenged by nature, man and themselves. Their doubt and ambivalence are portrayed in my favorite number of the night, one of the only Spanish language songs: “Cancion Mixteca” (traditional Mexican folk song arrangement by George Saenz) where the company laugh and play up their traditions and simultaneously embrace and hold at arm’s length their love of their heritage. There is also a fabulous number where the cast passes a stormy night inside a cave dancing an Aztec dance with the God of life, light and wisdom and then have to pass through the legs of Quetzalcoatl (heroic Caleb Marshall-Villarreal in an outrageous costume by Alejo Vietti). Another searing moment is when they are apprehended by the Texas Border Patrol who instantaneously change out of their American flag gallon hats into shtetl togs worn in the opening song’s salute to Lady Liberty, “Is It Criminal?” making the statement that we are all immigrants magnificently.
The set (designed by the incomparable Beowulf Boritt) had three curved wall sections offering alt least four different looks as they broke apart and moved around, while also effectively hiding the excellent band onstage led by Jeffrey Campos with supervision by Rick Hip-Flores. Somewhat resembling the Bilbao Guggenheim curved structure, they worked terrifically well for a climb as well as a perilous mountain pass. The upstage wall was a jagged mountain pass that picked up precise projections, especially a rain scene that had the cast convincingly romping through puddles, having a hell of a time. This has been a most excellent season for Barrington technically and “A Crossing” carries on the high caliber of work done this year.
This living newspaper engages your mind with the plight of our fellow man in a gripping, moving display of prodigious artistry. It is a story ripped from the headlines, executed with extraordinary craftsmanship, urgency, passion and beauty. I know that I require experiencing the issues and temper of the day by attending our storytellers whether they are working with dialogue, song or dance. “A Crossing” led me to a place where a promise for all was acknowledged.