Arena Stage Presents a Timely and Powerful Drama on Immigration

Don't miss 'Sanctuary City' through Nov. 27

Hernán Angulo (B) and María Victoria Martínez (G) in Sanctuary City (All images by Margot Schulman.)

WASHINGTON, DC -Dreamers. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Like two lovers planning a life together, like Chagall’s painting “Lovers and Sunflowers” of a couple embracing and swirling among the flowers beneath a full moon. This is not that. It is something entirely different. Sanctuary City tells a story of anguish, hopes dashed, fear of discovery, futures in jeopardy. It is the real real of illegal immigrants who have been subsisting on the fringes in America – many who have been working, raising children, going to school, paying taxes, buying homes – with hopes on hold buffeted about by the ever-changing political winds.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Martyna Majok knows this world. As a Polish immigrant, she became one of America’s leading drama writers and it’s no surprise that she is more than capable of turning her pen to this controversial issue. Here Majok focusses on two teenaged schoolmates who navigate their way through the intricacies of the American judicial system. Through school and menial jobs, through ever-constant fears of deportation, they try to make a life in America, but it’s a day-by-day struggle. Hopes and dreams are on hold. Incarceration and deportation loom large.

B (Hernán Angulo) and G (María Victoria Martínez) have been in the country for 10 years. Everything they know is here, including the stress of discovery and living on expired visas. B finds himself in a dizzying dilemma when his mother returns to Mexico leaving him on his own. At the same time G’s mother finally becomes a naturalized citizen, which gives G American citizenship too.

Kim Fischer (Henry)

Told in stop-action snapshots of their friendship we learn the toll it takes on their everyday lives. When G offers B a legal way out through marriage she discovers a part of B that she never knew. Before G goes off to college leaving B to his menial dishwasher job, they rehearse the interminable questions ICE will at a home visit ask to determine if theirs is a real marriage and if they are truly a couple. They know that getting caught in a lie or a false step means a quarter of million dollar fine plus five years in prison if they are caught trying to manipulate the system.

Will they go through with it? Will they be believed? Will they succeed in becoming citizens? Green cards, and hopefully permanent citizenship for B, are straws in the wind, but only if they play it right. And can they show their fondness for each other when Henry (Kim Fischer) arrives to throw a wrench in their plans?

Hernán Angulo and María Victoria Martínez

This timely drama features the two lead actors from the original cast from the Berkeley Repertory Theatre under the original direction by David Mendizábal. It is set in 2001 through 2006 in Newark, New Jersey and its environs where Majok grew up.

A powerful and important perspective on immigration that everyone should see.

Through November 27th at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024. For tickets and information visit or call the box office at 202 554-9066.

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Jordan Wright

Jordan Wright is a noted publisher and writer focused on food, spirits, travel, theatre and lifestyles.  Her writing can also be found on her personal website

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