An Immigration Story Told Anew in “March Alien”

Lead Article, Reviews

By Leia Squillace
 
There is no shortage of immigration stories in the theatre at present. Such is the zeitgeist manifesting onstage. Cillian Hegarty’s “March Alien” falls cleanly into this camp, yet watching it feels like encountering the genre for the first time.
 
“March Alien” tells the story of Gearóid, nicknamed “Git,” an imaginative young man raised in his beloved Dublin, Ireland. While in acting school, Git falls for the archetypal Belle, an American exchange student who becomes his great love. The two quickly bond over their unique relationship to the world; they can both literally speak to the animals and plants around them. After winning the approval of their Jesus‑adoring grandmothers, they decide to move to the United States to be wed and begin a life together.
 
The predictable roadblocks of the immigration process creep up slowly at first, but pick up steam. Eventually, Git finds himself legally forbidden from moving forward with his life in any meaningful way. Thanks to Mr. Hegarty’s dynamic and inventive performance, however, each turn feels increasingly shocking and egregious.
 
Mr. Hegarty is a phenomenal physical actor, seamlessly stepping into different characters with clarity, and embodying them fully. Within the first five minutes of the play, the audience is treated to sights of him biking through Dublin as Git, soaring through the air as Eddy the Seagull, and cradling coffee and snapping the newspaper as Git’s bickering parents. Mr. Hegarty depicts a years‑long immigration saga in under fifty minutes, thanks to his ability to convey settings and establish new characters instantaneously. This skill precludes even a second of lagging energy; he never relies on mere narration to set a scene. Instead, he straps his audience to him and leaps into new territory, never once letting us fall.
 
Contributing to this streamlined storytelling is the production’s cleverly hacked scenic design. Mr. Hegarty is aided technically by only a single chair and a flip pad with cartoonish illustrations representing settings and characters. These drawings offer visual cues for the slew of characters Mr. Hegarty portrays. Illustrations of sunflowers and smoke towers with faces supported the convention that Git could indeed converse with inanimate objects. While the rules of Git’s power to “speak to the things of the world” are a bit murky, it is rewarding to follow his logic, which proves necessary to justify the “animalis ex machina” ending.
 
As Git slogs through the naturalization process in New York, his father’s health rapidly declines back in Dublin. Git, unable to leave the United States to be at his father’s bedside while his paperwork is under review, sings to his father over video chat. He viscerally captures his feeling of powerlessness: “What I would have given to have a wall between me and you. I would have smashed it down with my bare hands.” Mr. Hegarty highlights in the most physical, tangible sense one’s utter vulnerability in a battle against immigration law.
 
That is, until Git snags a sailboat, intending to sail home, unhindered by Customs and Border Protection. Miraculously, his power, which has weakened since moving to America, returns, and he communicates with a passing shark who carries him across the Atlantic. Strengthened after saying goodbye to his father in person, and emboldened by the renewal of his power, Git feels prepared to not only return to the United States, but to take on the immigration law office.
 
With super‑heroic thunder, Git smashes in to take on the inefficient and unethical system that he is caught in. With gusto and speaking in verse, he manages to not only get his own paperwork processed, but helps others as well. His final admission that it has been relatively easy for him to navigate this system, compared to so many others, felt a bit like an afterthought. Nonetheless, “March Alien” offers insight into the quotidian challenges of immigrating to the United States, and is an entertaining and effective reminder of the both predictable and unforeseen trials of immigration.

 
March Alien
Written and Performed by Cillian Hegarty
November 5 at 7:30 PM
Photo credit: courtesy of the production
2019 United Solo Theater Festival
Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
 
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LEIA SQUILLACE is a director, devised theatre artist, and arts engagement administrator. Leia has developed new plays such as “GOOD KIDS” (Naomi Iizuka), “THE TRAIN” (Irene L. Pynn), and the Kennedy Center National Undergraduate Playwriting Award winner, “FAIR” (Karly Thomas). Most recently, Leia co‑developed a one‑woman show, “I KILLED THE COW,” which is currently touring nationally.
 

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