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72 Miles to Go... Review
Coronavirus. The Democratic primaries. The crashing stock market. With so many major issues facing us now, not to mention the daily struggles of just getting through the day, it’s been sadly too easy to forget about America’s “dreamers” –undocumented young people who came to America as children – as well as the Trump administration’s attempts to halt DACA, a law that would allow these people to remain in the U.S. legally.

If it does nothing else, Hilary Bettis’ new play “72 Miles to Go,” now at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre, will very effectively put the plight of these people back in the forefront of your mind. And since the 90-minute work is uniformly well-acted by its cast and smartly directed by Jo Bonney, the play will succeed for most audiences as more than mere political propaganda.

Unquestionably, “72 Miles” is an involving story, albeit one told too episodically for my taste. (The show features over dozen short scenes that span an eight-year period.) And if Bettis’ dialogue can feel a bit prosaic, she nonetheless creates five characters you can really invest in – even the one, Anita (Maria Elena Ramirez) who we basically just hear on the phone at sporadic intervals.

The matriarch of a blended Arizona family, Anita has been deported back to her native town of Nogales, Mexico – as the result of a traffic stop – even though she has been living here (not legally) for many years with her husband Billy (a winning Triney Saldovar), a U.S. citizen and local pastor, and her three children. Her absence is, perhaps, felt hardest by her younger two children (both by Billy): the studious, mostly level-headed Eva (an excellent Jacqueline Gullen), who somehow holds her broken family together, and the intellectually curious Aaron (an appealing Tyler Alvarez), who eventually makes a rather drastic decision in an attempt to help his mother.

But it’s the dilemma of her oldest son, the adult Christian (a riveting Bobby Moreno) that grabs us the most. He’s the actual “dreamer,” living without any papers, constantly looking over his shoulder for cops, shaking at the sound and lights of a siren near his house. Finding work is hard, though he eventually gets a job in construction, and he struggles to support his girlfriend-then-wife Angela (unseen) and the children they eventually have.

He’s a caring brother, too, but constantly clashes with Billy (whom Bettis does make slightly too clueless) even once lashing out that maybe his life would have been better if someone else had married his mother and taken them both him. And eventually, he’s forced to make a choice – well, two choices -- none of us should ever have to face.

Indeed, if Bettis’ play has one overwhelming message, it’s that very few of us (I suspect) can really imagine walking in Christian’s shoes, whether for 10 feet or 72 miles. Accordingly, we should forgive him both his trespasses and his sometime questionable actions – and do what we can to ensure a better life for all of America’s “dreamers.”

By Brian Scott Lipton

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Tyler Alvarez, Jacqueline Guillén, Bobby Moreno, Maria Elena Ramirez, and Triney Sandoval

Open/Close Dates
Opening 3/10/2020
Closing 5/3/2020

Theatre Info
Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036