"They've all come to look for America." That line from Simon and Garfunkel's "America" is central to the story of Seven.11.2005, now playing at the Lower East Side Tenement Theatre. The play and theater are a perfect fit. Located in the basement of a building constructed in 1863, the theater is surrounded by museums, gift shops, and stores dedicated to preserving the memory of immigrants who migrated to New York's shores long ago. The air is thick with stories, and everyone passing through is eager to hear one. Desipina and Company has taken advantage of this inquisitive atmosphere by producing Seven.11.2005, a South Asian production that respectfully and skillfully pays homage to the neighborhood's rich history while promoting tolerance for the diverse community currently residing there.
Both walls of this tight, century-old space, which is designed to resemble a 7-11 convenience store, are adorned with plastic shelves and several household items such as tissues, orange juice, coffee, and cigarettes. Upon examination of this set, one cannot help but wonder: Who are these people who work all day and night at 7-11s?
Seven.11.2005 blows the lid off this question in a series of seven 11-minute skits about South Asian immigrants from all walks of life trying to get by in America while working in a convenience store.
The play thrives in its setting. The stories are intriguing, the characters believable, and the dialogue custom-made for its predominantly South Asian audience. There were audible squeals of delight whenever they heard a familiar phrase or dialect spoken onstage.
The play kicks off with a lovelorn American man (Andrew Guilarte) and a woman (Lethia Nall) flirting in a Paris convenience store. She once immigrated to the same area of New York where he lived and attended the same four-year college before she returned to Paris. The American is intrigued by their shared geography, and his flirtation turns sincere until he realizes that their different life paths render a budding relationship impossible.
When this scene ends, Guilarte effortlessly slips from his role as a suave, romantic seducer to an obsessive, nerdy comic-book dork in a scene that played to big laughs and appreciative applause.
It is important to note that there are no blackouts between scenes. When one skit ends, the actors quickly launch into their next characters. In a testament to their skill, they make these transitions smoothly and fully, shedding all traces of their previous characters like a dead skin.
However, one scene, called "Beckoning Cat," played too powerfully for its own good. It features a rowdy deadbeat (Jackson Loo) and a scheming convenience store owner (John Wu) plotting to steal a winning lottery ticket from a na