Wednesday, July 05, 2017

SF Mime Troupe 2017 Opens with "Walls" at Dolores Park in San Francisco

SF Mime Troupe 2017 “Walls,” A Review
By Wanda Sabir

What makes SF Mime Troupe the award-winning theatre it is, is its amazing work which is always topical and timely. Its current production, July 1-Sept. 10, “Walls” is no different. Playwright Michael Gene Sullivan, SF Mime veteran’s new work looks at federal immigration policy from George W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton to Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The quartet has much in common, each president responsible for policies which criminalize its immigrant population. Surprisingly, we hear President Obama often on the issue, his tenure one of the more draconian against immigrant populations. “Walls” looks at the xenophobia such scapegoating fosters, along with hate crimes masked by pseudo-patriotism. Heavy? Yes, but the pacing, excellent direction, cast, Mime Troupe humor, stunning songs and surprising rumba, make the medicine easier to swallow.

At center, in “Walls” is a love story between ICE agent L. Mary and recent arrival Zaniyah Nahuatl (Marilet Martinez) who trembles every time she thinks about the crossing from Mexico into America. Zaniyah lives with Mary who wants her to stay hidden.  L. Mary wants to keep her girlfriend safe, while Zaniyah Nahuatl wants to earn some money to send to her mother back home.  While L. Mary is at work hunting down illegal immigrants – the case load ever increasing, at home, Zaniyah cooks and cleans and takes care of the house.  Zaniyah speaks to her mom often on the phone and though justifiably paranoid ventures out into the neighborhood to shop at Somali immigrant, Bahdoon Samakab’s store.

The two hit it off immediately, dancing around the store as they swap immigrant stories. Samakab (Rotimi Agbabiaka) is a successful businessman whose income supports his immediate family and relatives at home in Somalia. He is not illegal or undocumented, yet neighbors in the community who once befriended him over his 25 year tenure, now treat him with scorn because he is Muslim and an immigrant. As Samakab juggles hard work and financial responsibilities, he complains to his mother whom he speaks to daily about his son who loves all things American except honest labor.

Lastly there is Irish ICE agent Cliodhna Aghabullogue (Lizzie Calogero), who is vigilant in ridding the nation of terrorists and criminals. Cliodhna thinks she has to divorce herself from her homeland to be authentically American, a land and people she loves, perhaps more than they love her.

The drama takes place on the backdrop of a crippled Lady Liberty: her head sits on stage with weather vane crown and one foot. The scale is missing as is any semblance of compassion. When “Walls” reaches its climax, Cliodhna says to Zaniyah that she is not interested in her story or reasons for being in America. It is not surprising that when the tables turn, the same agency, ICE is unsympathetic to Cliodhna as well. If ever, Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), prominent Protestant pastor’s statement of regret over his inaction and support of Hitler’s regime is apropos: “[when] they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”  L. Mary too has much to atone for when “Walls” concludes.

As the audience at Dolores Park packs up, we wonder what our country would look like if such immigration policies didn’t exist. “Walls” certainly put a damper on what could have been a day of jubilation for the home team (smile). However, until the walls come tumbling down— visible and equally impermeable invisible ones, this nation will not know freedom and Frederick Douglass’s question will remain unanswered. Visit or call (415) 285-1717, to find out when a performance is coming to your neighborhood as this free community theatre makes its rounds in Northern California with multiple stops in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Sacramento, San Lorenzo, Richmond, Mill Valley, Point Arena, Merced, Petaluma, Ukiah, Davis, etc.

Most shows start at 2 p.,m. with music at 1:30 p.m. There are post show discussions July 8 at Live Oak Park in Berkeley, and July 26 at Mime Troupe headquarters in San Francisco; August 12 at Glen Park in San Francisco and August 26 at Willard Park in Berkeley; and Sept. 3 at Dolores Park in San Francisco. Listen to a recent interview with actor Marilet Martinez (Zaniyah Nahuatl) at Wanda’s Picks Radio.

Wanda's Picks Radio Friday, June 30, 2017

This is a black arts and culture site. We will be exploring the African Diaspora via the writing, performance, both musical and theatrical (film and stage), as well as the visual arts of Africans in the Diaspora and those influenced by these aesthetic forms of expression. I am interested in the political and social ramifications of art on society, specifically movements supported by these artists and their forebearers. It is my claim that the artists are the true revolutionaries, their work honest and filled with raw unedited passion. They are our true heroes. Ashay!

1. Amy Mueller, Artistic Director,  joins us to speak about the 40th Annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival, July 13-23. (Early Bird special extended to 6/30). Amy is an award-winning director and producer of original theater for over thirty years, and is a leader in the national new play development sector. Since taking the helm of Playwrights Foundation in 2001.Her directing credits include Berkeley Repertory Theatre, San Diego Repertory Theatre, ACT Seattle, A.C.T. Arizona Theatre Company, Cutting Ball Theater, Crowded Fire Theater and many others. She is the mother of two beautiful children.

2. Rebroadcast 8/29/2014 show

3. Marilet Martinez (Actor) is a bilingual actor, teaching artist, fight choreographer, improviser, physical theatre deviser, puppeteer, certified Zumba instructor and SF native. She first worked with the San Francisco Mime Troupe in 2003 as a work shop student then went on to understudy for the company in 2011. She has also taught for the Youth Theater Project. Marilet has performed with ACT's The Strand, Cal Shakes, Berkeley Rep's Ground Floor, Theatreworks' New Works Festival, Word for Word, PCPA Theatrefest, Shotgun Players, Crowded Fire, African-American Shakes, Woman's Will, Teatrovision, Shadowlight Theatre, SF Playwrights Foundation, and more. She is a company member at Impact Theatre and an associate artist with Cutting Ball Theatre. Marilet dedicates this show to her abuelitos and abuelitas for teaching her how to be brave.
SFMT's Walls opens July 1 at Cedar Rose Park in Berkeley.

4. Rebroadcast: Pricilla: Queen of the Desert, at Theatre Rhinoceros: May 27-July 1, joining us are: Charles Peoples III (Adam/Felicia), AeJay Mitchell (Choreographer). Shows are at Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., (at Battery St.) SF.