Passage Theatre presents a strong cast, firm direction, and a story with dramatic impact and relevance
The Passage Theatre Company in Trenton comes up with another powerful drama in Erlina Ortiz’s Morir Sonyando. The three-character play flows backwards and forwards in time, mapping out the family dynamics of a young woman, her younger brother, and their mother. The playwright does not shy away from harsh interactions among the three nor from the cycle of family abuse that can so easily turn fatal.
The story is set in North Philadelphia. When we first meet Genesis (Maria Peyramaure), pronounced “Hennessey”, she is a 30-ish professional. Her younger brother Felix (Daniel Colón) is married with a daughter. Their mother Paloma (Johanna Tolentino) is in her early 50s but more frail than she should be. From this point, we travel backward and forward in time, with all three characters appearing as their younger selves as events and arguments that led to the opening scene are played out.
Artistic Director C. Ryanne Domingues guides her talented cast through the time-hopping events of Morir Sonyando. Miss Peyramaure and Mr. Colón are perfect as the siblings, giving in all of their scenes a vividly believable impression of having shared growing up together. As for Miss Tolentino, she creates an indelible character in Paloma, a woman of great love but with an iron will to protect herself and her children no matter the personal cost.
Dustin Pettegrew’s multi-leveled set easily adapts to the many indoor and outdoor scenes in this play. The projections created by Sadah “Espii” Proctor ground us in time and space. Especially striking is Ms. Proctor’s creation of scenes from a “documentary” about domestic violence featuring Paloma recounting her story, projected on video screens above the stage.
During the play, there are times when it takes a bit of effort on the audience’s part to realize the point in time in which scenes are being played out. However, once it is realized that the play will not be progressing along a fixed start-to-finish timeline, the audience can more readily immerse itself in the story. Playwright Erlina Ortiz’s powerful work rewards its audiences with emotional depth and honesty. The Passage Theatre Company deserves praise for presenting this work. A strong cast, firm direction, and a story with dramatic impact and relevance awaits the serious playgoer at the Mill Hill Theatre in downtown Trenton. I urge such playgoers to see Morir Sonyando before its brief run ends.