By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Now consider a road movie as a stage play. That's what Kitchen Dog Theater has with its regional premiere of Quiara Alegría Hudes' 26 Miles. It's a road trip without the scenery, without even the road; just dialogue. And that's just one of its problems.
Hudes, who wrote the book of the Tony-winning musical In the Heights, has churned out a pedestrian drama about unlikable characters you wouldn't want to walk across the street with, much less watch drive from Pennsylvania to Wyoming. On a stage. With a steering wheel attached to a piece of plywood on scenery painted to look like a volcano. Sort of. Not really.
That's the journey taken by precocious 10th-grader Olivia (Allie Donnelly) and her unhinged birth mother Beatriz (Christina Vela) after the kid runs away from her dad (Ashley Wood) and his indifferent second wife (never seen). Instead of taking her back to her house, Beatriz drives them across the country because Olivia wants to see buffalo roam.
On the drive, the girl, who's lived with her dad since a nasty custody dispute a decade earlier, learns that her mom went to Woodstock, which Olivia thought was "an urban legend." And that her mom's second husband (Christopher Carlos) has another woman on the side.
They talk. Oh, how they talk. They describe scenery. That's fun. They encounter local color, like a South Dakota roadside food vendor (Carlos again) who spins an elegiac description of how his wife makes tamales.
But the longer they take to get to Wyoming, the more you wish they'd rev the engine of their invisible car, clasp hands and end things like the best road flick ever about two women: Thelma and Louise.