Play portrays lives of illegal immigrants

A local theater group in Plaza Midwood is trying to bring clarity to an emotional debate over what to do about the children of illegal immigrants.

“Limbo,” the Carolina Actors' Studio Theatre's latest production, opens today. It is part tragedy, part dance, and part documentary wrapped into a two-hour play.

The title comes from the feelings many undocumented young people experience being brought illegally to this country, adopting it as their own, then living in fear of being told they'll have to leave.

But while sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants, the play also reflects the other widely held perspective: that people cannot pick and choose which laws to follow.

“Think about it,” an immigration agent, performed by Christy Edney, says in one scene. “Is it fair for all these people who legally go through the process filing the paperwork, paying the fees, and so forth? And then other people just cut in line – like in the grocery store – and skip the whole process.”

The story is told through the experiences of two film students from Gastonia working on their senior project – a documentary about student-turned-political-activist Marie Gonzalez, whose story of being split from her parents when they were deported back to Costa Rica drew national headlines.

“I think it's going to be very eye opening for our community,” said Brenda Giraldo, 24, who plays Gonzalez. “I think the audience will be able to empathize with the situation immigrants find themselves in. Many immigrant students didn't have a choice coming here, and now it's all they know.”

“Limbo” is based on dozens of conversations and e-mails between screenwriter Glenn Hutchinson and Gonzalez over the course of a year. Hutchinson said he came up with the idea of writing about immigration while working with students at the Hispanic Cultural Center. He sought out Gonzalez after reading her story.

With scenes of immigration agents raiding the home of a young couple while they sleep, racial harassment at a restaurant, and a deported mother giving up her baby so it can be raised in the United States, “Limbo” does not shy from the controversy.

Says Hutchinson: “We're trying to hit that nerve of how hard this issue is. People can make a logical argument that this is a nation of laws, but families are being split apart. We want to show the complexities.”