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Theater Review: "Ironbound"

“Ironbound” plays through October 22, 2017 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N.
Photo credit:
Daren Scott

Enough of this American dream stuff. This is a time for survival.

Darya (Jacque Wilke) is a hard-edged, sharp-tongued, heavily-accented Polish immigrant in New Jersey, who lost her factory job when it closed and now subsists – nay, persists, in the present political sense – by cleaning people’s houses.

Darya is all too familiar with Jersey bus stops like the one designed by Divya Murthy Kumar, where we find Darya at the top of Martyna Majok’s “Ironbound.” It’s a gray, almost foreboding place with chain link fencing and a colorless bench that almost dares you to sit down.

It may well be this bus stop that gives the prize-winning play its title. “Ironbound” plays through Oct. 22 at Moxie Theatre.

Time shifts between 2006 and 2014, and characters (including two husbands -- one seen, one mentioned) come and go, but Darja – broken English and all – persists. Her first husband Maks (Arusi Santi), dreams of a career as a blues musician and drops by to tell Darja he is going to Chicago in pursuit of that desire.

What Darya wants most is a car. Her (unseen) son Aleks has absconded with hers, and bus stops with their unpredictable buses have worn out their welcome.

Right now she is breaking up with housemate/wayward lover Tommy (Eric Casalini), because he is seeing the woman whose house she cleans. Her pride and anger will put her on the street and cause other problems, but she will face this as she has everything else: with ironclad resolve to survive.

An unexpected encounter with a jeans-and-hoodie-clad teenager (and street hustler) named Vic (Carter Piggee) as Darja attempts to get to sleep (using an old discarded tire for a pillow) adds another level of interest and another fascinating character to the mix.

“Ironbound” isn’t a one-man show, but it is definitely a tour-de-force star vehicle for Wilke’s indomitable Darya, who owns this stage (and never leaves it). Wilke is always a force to be reckoned with; here she outdoes herself.

Casalini’s Tommy has a good heart if a weak will and wandering eye.

Santi’s Maks may be chasing a pipedream, but says what she also seems to believe: “Don’t try to take this from me. I come from shit. But we are more than this.” 

Piggee’s Vic, like the others, is making it the best way he can, and may surprise you as he did me.

“Ironbound” offers insider insights into the immigrant experience (Majok was five when she first came to the States) and the question of whether it is better to be invisible or to stand up for yourself. She presents them with humor, poignancy, lively dialogue and intriguing characters that can’t help but engage the audience.

The details

“Ironbound” plays through October 22, 2017 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N.

Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.