Alma works three low-paid jobs and sleeps on the couch to keep herself and her 17-year old daughter Angel fed, clothed, and housed in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in December 2016, somewhere in California. She’s laser-focused on getting Angel to college and into a well-paid profession. Tomorrow is the SAT exam, and Alma is at fever-pitch to make sure Angel is prepared. She’s been drilling her daughter with flash cards since she was age four and, against the grain, she’s taken off work early to help Angel study. But Angel comes home late smelling of alcohol. She insists she won’t take the exam, and didn’t register for it.
Benjamin Benne’s Alma (@nowall) reveals, with the tense pacing of a thriller, why Angel rebels against her mother’s command. Outside the walls of their apartment, imagined as menacing darkness in Lex Marcos’s and Amber Parker’s brilliant set and lighting design, the weight of immigration policy is palpable and inescapable. Alma and Angel’s fight becomes tragic in its original dramatic sense: there is no solution or escape that is just. The tragic dilemma between the duty of love against law, cultural norms, and economic imperatives uncovers the question that our society must urgently answer: how do we, in the words of philosopher Martha Nussbaum, “construct a world in which such conflicts do not confront our citizens, or confront them as rarely as possible.”
The fearless Anabel Hovig as Alma and the incandescent Klarissa Marie Robles as Angel are perfectly cast as striving immigrant mother and slacker US-born daughter. They are mesmerizing as they reveal the layer after layer those stereotypes cover up. Alma (@nowall) is directed with insight and daring by Brandon J. Simmons, and runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through September 1 at Theatre Battery, 444 Ramsay Way, Suite 107, Kent, Washington. Theatre Battery practices “radical hospitality” and admission is free.