The prospects of a better life across the border are weighed against the tolls of migrating in Las Escenas De La Cruz (translation: “Scenes of the Cross”), a spirited, but over-the-top venture from the activist company iDO Theater! Spoken in both English and Spanish, Scenes of the Cross follows a group of refugees across the border, along the way illustrating the events that drove them from Mexico or the future travails that await them in America. Most of the young cast members make their stage debuts in this docudrama, which fluctuates drastically between life and death melodrama and romantic high-jinks that would be more at home on the Telumundo network. Working example: a scene in which the group leader (played with zeal by Maxy Jiménez) threatens to leave behind a snake-bitten youth packs a riveting punch, but the final segment where two newly dating immigrants discover that they are – sorpresa! – long-lost siblings feels like the wrong note to end on.
Overall, Tales offers a mixed bag of dignified intentions and hasty execution. But there is a unique energy and undeniable immediacy in the production’s rough style, bolstered by the fact that these young men and women are telling their own all-too-true stories. As such, the actors all display a touching, if untrained, commitment to the material. While the lighting design and staging lack any coherent style, the jumpy narrative chronology nicely affords a larger perspective, one which highlights the character goals that are achieved or, in the case of the young girl who’d like to go to school after arriving in America, not achieved.