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The Independent

‘In to America’

Grace Yu, Staff Writer

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In our alarming present moment, the current Griffin Theatre Company performance of “In to America” depicts the story of American immigration, our country’s multicultural composition and “the American dream.”

Written by Artistic Director William Massolia and directed by Dorothy Milne, the play features an ensemble cast of 13 actors who deliver spirited and emotive monologues that represent the scores of people throughout history who have made America their own. The actors master a variety of colorful accents and take on the personas of a myriad of personalities with differing ethnicities, nations of origin and personal histories. They showcase both their ample talent and America’s plentiful diversity.

Simple costuming and a small set put the spotlight on the historical figures themselves, many inspired by nonfiction, whose names were projected onto title cards between scenes. Largely taking its cue from Japanese-American historian Ronald Takaki’s famous book “A Different Mirror,” the play is fairly successful in its portrayal of the vast multitude of experiences that have made up America; some experiences are inspiring, many heart-breaking – and of course, not all voluntary, some suffering under oppression, and not all entirely free.

“In to America,” in some respects, is a balm. In the wake of uncertain times and what seems to be a threatening Presidential administration to many Americans, even the most cynical of hearts could not help but be soothed by the reminder of the stories of the many men, women and children who have arrived on American shores – in all of their humanity, carrying hopes, dreams, disappointments and heartaches – these past 400 some years. It is not difficult to imagine that many a theater-goer sat in the audience with the particular wish for consolation in mind.

And yet, as the United States of America under the administration of President Donald J. Trump launches 50 Tomahawk missiles on Syria (the news broke on the day of my writing this) but continues its restriction of Syrian refugees entering its borders, it seems a savage irony to claim the title as nation of the pursuit of Life, Liberty, and Happiness for all. Massolia and Milne, surely, did not intend for the production, although beautiful, to reflect such a dark shadow on the current and past state of the country, but it is worrying that much of our art continues in this nationalistic bent without taking into consideration the extent of our destructive militaristic affairs and arbitrary intervention into foreign countries both current and past. The story of American immigration cannot be blind to the cruel story of American foreign affairs. After all, it is one, in some cases, that has prompted the other.

Thus it is with mixed emotions that I review this play. While ample proof for the potent, fertile, yearning imagination of American thinkers and artists – and needless to say, the American people as a whole – it is also reflective of the tragedies we like to overlook in both the historical narratives we tell ourselves and in our art.

“In to America,” which opened on March 18, runs through April 23. Performances are held at the Den Theatre in Logan Square.

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