The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us

A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
De Novo: Beyond Borders (más allá de las fronteras)

Why did you decide to leave the gang Mara Salvatrucha? – Kim

I met some other kids who played soccer on a soccer field outside of my barrio. They came from families who had money. Their families had businesses and owned farms. The older kids had cars. I wanted to hang out with them. I liked playing soccer. The guys from the gang didn’t play soccer, they only stole and did drugs. – Edgar
Four members of The Houses on the Moon Theater Company, an educational theater group –Jose Aranda, Lina Gallegos, Mauricio Leyton, Emily Joy Weiner – take their places on the Passage Theater stage amid small piles of cardboard storage boxes. Framing them are a pair of clotheslines upon which are clipped countless documents, affidavits, legal briefs, letters etc. Behind them is a screen that will be used to project photos and facts such as: “Each year approximately 100,000 unaccompanied immigrant children are apprehended trying to cross into the United States. 90,000 of these children are deported to Mexico without trial.”

The actors proceed to create a gripping, persuasive and important documentary theater piece comprised almost entirely from court transcripts, interviews, police reports, and psychiatric exams. In particular they are putting together the story of Guatemalan-born teen Edgar Chocoy-Guzman who at the age of fourteen illegally crossed the border into the United States in a desperate effort to escape life as a gang member. A little dramatic liberty is taken, they explain, to give shape to the story although the dialogue that we hear in both English and Spanish is attributed to the real people who spoke it.

The play chronicles the route taken by Edgar (Aranda) after his mother left him to find work in the United States. She keeps her promise to send clothes to the then ten-year old Edgar and also to send money home. We are reminded that Guatemala had fallen into political, economic and social chaos following the overthrow in 1954 of the democratically elected government that was largely engineered by the United States and funded by the CIA.

Although Edgar lived with his grandfather, his aunt and an uncle who sold drugs in their home, and a younger brother, there was little time for affection or concern for him at home. He, as did many young people who live in poverty, found security and support from a local street gang. The only way to leave the gang was by paying them a large sum of money which Edgar did not have.

The gang’s name was Mara Salvatrucha, and once branded with the gang’s tattoo MS, Edgar’s allegiance to the gang can never be broken or it will mean death to him and to family members. Because he is not eighteen, Edgar is used by the gang to deliver drugs. He carries a gun, but unlike the older members of the gang has never been involved in murder.

Edgar flees and manages to get himself over the border and to finally locate his mother only to discover that life for him becomes a repetition of what he had experienced before. In the United States, he is spotted by a gang member and forced to join them. His mother throws him out of the house and he is caught in the vicious and endless cycle of arrests and incarceration and without hope for education or a job.

To be sent back by the immigration authorities to Guatemala would mean his death, as he has been marked as a runaway by the gang. What comes to light is how many of the gangs in Mexico and Latin America actually have their roots in the United States. It was during the 1980s that many of the young immigrant aliens became even more empowered when they were deported back to their homeland.

With the use of slides and photos, the play offers visuals of the life these young adults have to face. With over eight thousand children risking their lives every year by crossing the border to escape the horrors of every day life in their own country, the courts in the United States are overwhelmed with cases. The months that 16 year-old Edgar spends in jail in the United States awaiting a hearing and then an appeal is almost unconscionable.

He finds an advocate in a lawyer Kimberly Salinas (Weiner) who does what she can to convince the court that Edgar wants to change his life and that he has aunt living legally in Virginia who will vouch for him. A good amount of testimony regarding Edgar’s case is presented as is his communication with his family in letters. The play’s most poignant scene occurs as Edgar is being held for deportation by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service and, with the assistance of his lawyer, makes a valiant plea for asylum.

Writer/director Jeffrey Solomon has structured the play to fit snuggly within seventy minutes even as he keeps the momentum from ever slowing down. I was a bit confused by the time-line, especially the various charges and sentencing in various courts in Colorado, Arizona and California. What matters the most is that we can see that the system is as overwhelmed and inadequate as is the stultifying bureaucracy behind it.

The acting is notably restrained and compelling with Aranda a standout as Edgar. The other actors play multiple roles with Weiner, particularly forceful as his lawyer. Gallegos switches gears impressively as Edgar’s mother, an unsympathetic judge and as a translator. Leyton is also effective as a counselor and mentor in juvenile hall and other roles.

The title “De Novo” as explained in Merrian-Webster’s Dictionary of Law refers to a de novo review, allowing complete retrial upon new evidence. As the immigration system remains an incendiary topic, especially since the recent laws enacted in Colorado that allow “suspicious” people to be picked up without using words that might be construed as racial profiling. There are many words that can be used to explain and to exploit the problem we and our neighbors to the south are facing regarding illegal immigration, but none do justice to what fate has in store for Edgar and others like him when a plea for asylum is denied.

De Novo: Beyond Borders (más allá de las fronteras)
Written and Directed by Jeffrey Solomon

Cast: Jose Aranda, Lina Gallegos, MauricioLeyton, Emily Joy Weiner.
Lighting Director: Charles S. Reece
Production Stage Manager: Anthony O. Bullock
Sound & Projection Op: Amariss White
Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes no intermission
(Only two performances remain: Saturday evening September 17 at 8 PM and Sunday matinee September 18 at 3 PM.
Mill Hill Playhouse, located on the corner of Front and Montgomery Streets, Trenton, N.J.
For tickets ($20.00) call 609-392-0766 or at the Passage Theatre Office at 219 E. Hanover St., Trenton. Tickets are also available at the door one hour before each performance at the Mill Hill Playhouse.
From 09/10/11
Opening 09/10/11
Closing 09/18/11
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 09/10/11

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.

Visit Curtainup's Blog Annex
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of De Novo: Beyond Borders (más allá de las fronteras)
  • I disagree with the review of De Novo: Beyond Borders (más allá de las fronteras)
  • The review made me eager to see De Novo: Beyond Borders (más allá de las fronteras)
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

>Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email and state if you'd like your comments published in our letters section. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook or Curtainup at Twitter and Curtainup's Blog Annex
Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows-the complete set

You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company



©Copyright 2011, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from