Editor's note: Sole Survivors was presented at Stage Left Studio Theatre June 3rd through June 7th. It will play next at the North 4th Theatre (4904 Fourth Street NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico) from July 17th through August 1st. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit www.vsartsnm.org or phone 505-344-4542. The show will be performed Friday, July 17th, Saturday, July 18th, Friday, July 24th, Saturday, July 25th, Friday, July 31st, Saturday, and August 1st at 8:00pm.
Michelle Vest’s Sole Survivors is an intriguing and heartbreaking look at the complex issue of immigration. Vest portrays four fascinating characters and frames the monologues with a mariachi band, Flor de Toloache, playing songs while she transforms into her next character. (When the show plays in New Mexico, the band will be Mariachi Sonidos del Monte.) Flor de Toloache is an amazingly talented ensemble featuring Mireya Ramos, Shae Fiol, Veronica Valerio, and Antonio Vidal. Veronica Valerio particularly shines with her gorgeous, velvety voice full of pain and intrigue. I have to say it was refreshing for me to see an almost all-female mariachi band. The juxtaposition of Flor de Toloache’s music and Vest’s monologues works perfectly and allows the audience to embrace the spirit of the immigrant soul.
Vest’s characters all have a fascinating story to tell. Her first character is a man that explains how he became a coyote; his experiences with the death and violence suffered by illegal immigrants is bone-chilling. The second character is a vibrant, young mom that crosses the border but must leave her son behind. The next character is a day worker; his story demonstrates how the brutal struggle to survive can sometimes make us forget our humanity. And the last character is a sweet professor from El Salvador who must work in a kitchen in the U.S.; he is waiting to reunite with his family after eleven years. Each character is portrayed with precision and heart. This play needs to be seen, especially in a time of economic recession, when scapegoating immigrants is rampant.
Vest’s show ran at Cheryl King’s Stage Left Studio Theatre, a charming and intimate space perfect for one person shows. The theater is the only solo show repertory theatre in New York and offers a wonderful opportunity for artists like Michelle Vest to get exposure. Go to www.stageleftstudio.net to learn about her upcoming shows.