Do not forget to keep looking over your shoulder. They could come at any minute, banging down your door. They do not show mercy. They do not show compassion. And they certainly do not care if you have a child or a job or an entire life set up by the time they get there, so do not forget to look over your shoulder.
Immigration has taken center stage in American politics and it does the same at local theatre Baltimore Center Stage in the performance of “Miss You Like Hell.” This captivating show tells the story of a mother, dubbed Beatrice, traveling cross-country with her suicidal daughter who wants nothing to do with her.
Do not forget to keep looking over your shoulder. The clock is ticking down for the pair to make it to Beatrice’s immigration hearing, though it is really just a death sentencing. They have seven days to get there. This is where her future will be decided and she can not afford to mess it up.
Both motherhood and daughterhood are made up of sacrifice, love, mistakes and forgiveness. The mother and daughter duo in this musical cannot seem to find any common ground among the battlefield of broken promises and lost years. Their bonding is a slow process but as they are forced to learn more about each other in the close confinements of motel rooms and rusted old cars, they discover that they have much more than anger to offer each other.
Do not forget to keep looking over your shoulder. Do not make any mistakes, no matter how small. A broken taillight is destructive. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you.
Alongside an amazing musical score, a simplistic yet creative set and the perfect casting of characters, “Miss You Like Hell” offers a modern perspective on immigration, deportation and the toll it can take on the lives of human beings. Today’s immigrants are often portrayed in the media as people who have just recently crossed the border, who are “invading” and supposedly taking all our jobs. In reality, many of their stories are more complicated than that. Every immigrant has a reason for immigrating. It could be to escape violence, to give their kids a chance to be properly educated and live a fulfilling life, to finally take a deep breath and feel safe. There are too many reasons to count.
Most of the time, the immigration process is lengthy and unnecessarily slow. There is not always enough time to wait. Desperate people then turn to desperate measures: illegally crossing the border. The fear that accompanies the life of an illegal immigrant is perfectly captured in “Miss You Like Hell.” Even Beatrice, a middle-aged woman who had been in the United States since she was a young adult, was subject to the intense torture that is the fear of deportation.
All throughout the play, there was a countdown to Beatrice’s immigration hearing. Even during the sweetest moments of mother-daughter bonding, even when Beatrice began falling in love again, even with all of the wonderful people Beatrice and her daughter met, the reminder that all of it could come screeching to a halt at the hearing hung heavy over the audience.
This musical cannot be done justice in one single article — there is too much to contain. And this, perhaps, serves as a metaphor for the cold, robotic courtrooms that try to summarize a person in just a few hours so a judge can decide their fate.
“Miss You Like Hell” suggests that maybe it is time to ask ourselves not whether these human beings should be allowed to stay but how we can welcome them with open arms, by knocking down our walls and understanding we will never deserve a life of privilege based on the pure luck of where we happened to be born.
“Miss You Like Hell: A Musical Without Borders” will be showing at Baltimore Center Stage until October 13.
Photo Credit: Pictured (left to right): Stephanie Gomerez and Lorraine Velez. Photo by Bill Geenen.