nytheatre.com review by Robert Buckwalter
October 6, 2006
Glass Highways, a fablesque story by David J. Marrero, takes place on Christmas Eve during a freak blizzard in the New Mexican desert. It tells the story of Jimmy Freewater, a young man of Zuni Indian heritage, and his quest to marry Julia Firston, a local Caucasian woman. Despite the conniving and sometimes brutal attempts by Julia's family to block Jimmy's romantic pursuit, he perseveres through blizzard, fistfights, circling coyotes, and various slapstick style shenanigans to finally win her love.
The problems with Marrero's play and this production are numerous. For one, the actors often appear to be in a different play from one another, due mostly to the fact that the play itself does not seem to know what it is trying to be. Marrero attempts to mix elements of fable, myth, and reality; however, the three never combine to propel the play forward. Rather, they battle endlessly with each other to claim ownership of a story that asks its audience to suspend disbelief to a very great extent. What Marrero and the director, Matt Black, have missed is that elements of fable and myth do not excuse them from having to justify the actions of their characters. To put it simply, too many things here just do not make sense.
Things kind of go like this: Jimmy woos Julia; her brothers and father who disapprove of her marrying an Indian get him alone, beat him up, then back off whenever Julia enters, apparently not wanting her to know of the tactics they've invoked. Then, Julia, her brothers, and, Jimmy and his brother Wayne, all go shopping together at WalMart to buy Christmas gifts for Father as the blizzard sets in. The weight of the snow collapses the roof of (the evil) WalMart, scattering the bunch in different directions. Suddenly, they are forced to begin finding their way home in whiteout conditions. They all happen to meet up along the side of a frozen (glass) highway where Father happens upon them in the family truck. He only has room for a total of five in the truck though, meaning one will have to walk home. Jimmy volunteers himself to be the one to hoof it alone until Julia jumps out of the truck at the last minute to join him.
Now the stage is set for Jimmy to have some quality time with Julia, and they have just that. They talk, they joke, they laugh, and Jimmy even makes a boyishly awkward attempt at a kiss. So what is so horribly wrong in this scene? There is a raging blizzard, Jimmy is losing blood from an earlier knife attack from one of Julia's brothers, coyotes are gathering around them, and they mention on occasion that they are freezing, but the scene is played out as though they are taking a casual stroll through the park in June. Unfortunately, this is just one example of a play chock-full of scenes where characters do things that make absolutely no sense in the context of what is going on around them.
This disconnect leads us to believe that the characters (as well as the writer and director) just don't care very much about what will happen next. Consequently, neither do we.