By Matthew Fam
It’s the late 21st Century. Mangoes are a rarity. Chickens have gone extinct in 2055.
This is the future, envisioned by writer and director Andrea Ang and the New York City-based group, Square One Collective.
In a world torn apart by environmental degradation and political strife, immigrants and refugees flee to the Motherland.
“I watched my home swallowed whole on TV,” recounts Player C (Ana Cantorán Viramontes) as she offers a glimpse to the unseen apocalypse. “I want to find someplace I can feel proud of calling home.”
Simply getting to the Motherland isn’t so cut and dry, though. While waiting for citizenship, they are quarantined in a reservation referred to as The Bay.
Here’s where it gets tricky—contestants are selected from The Bay and stay in a facility, where they participate in play sessions to score points.
The game of choice? Dots.
Players use fluorescent paint markers to draw lines connecting rows of dots on the gameboard, and create squares to score points.
At the end of numerous rounds, the player with the most points wins a coveted green ca—I mean, citizenship to the Motherland.
By now, the parallels of U.S. immigration in a Trumpian era are clear, and we see the cogs turning in Andrea’s script.
What starts out as a friendly game of equals, descends into intrigue and scheming as players strategize to be Top Dog.
Player A (Juliana Suaide) reveals to have received help in the facility, which sets off an alliance between Player B (Sarah McEneaney) and C.
Tit for tat, they deduct points from each other and sabotage opponents’ gameplay to get ahead—the once comrades now testy teammates.
It may have been opening night jitters, but the dialogue seemed to be affected by non-deliberate pauses and the occasional speaking over each other. This broke the illusion of the players’ high-stakes ordeal.
And the litany of play sessions highlighted inconsistencies in choreography as the players moved in and out of the game board, swiveled on their chairs, or leaned forward as they strategized against each other.
It’s difficult work maintaining bodily tension at length. Unfortunately, the rigor of such repeated movement sequences magnify any inconsistencies.
The last third of the performance felt stronger.
In a sudden break from pattern, the performance gleefully swerved into a cacophony of pop culture references.
It punctures well-known pop culture references like Carmen Miranda in a fruit basket headpiece.
But, in this skit, she laments her lost Louboutins after lip synching a Mandarin cover of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang. Juliana effortlessly flips from power hungry Player A to this camp creation.
We then see a re-enactment of a scene from The Matrix, where Morpheus (in Sarah’s deadpan) presenting Neo (Ana) with the infamous red and blue pills. But this time, it’s a pill bottle and a mango.
A game show parody of The Weakest Link (Natalie Ahn as host) quizzing contestants on the Motherland resembles a manic citizenship test.
In an effective use of camp, it not only ridicules the immigration process, but also highlights the hypocrisy of players turning against each other.
Ultimately, it was encouraging to see the piece take an stab at tackling personal tragedies and politics within larger, relevant issues of rising intolerance and stricter immigration borders.
No Place may not have played a perfect game, but it still deserves some points of its own.
Photography credit: Juliana Tan