26 Miles at Round House Theatre Bethesda

When I saw who wrote this brand-new play, I got pretty excited, because I love her other well-known piece, In The Heights. Quiara Alegria Hudes wrote this show, 26 Miles, after the incredible success of her musical on Broadway. Unfortunately, this new one falls far below my expectations. The characters are one-dimensional, the story line is predictable, and the dialogue was stilted and unrealistic.

It's another coming-of-age story about a teenage girl who doesn't get along with her stepmom. The main character, Olivia (Laura C. Harris) calls her mother one night when she's sick. It's been 5 months since the two spoke, and Olivia is less than pleased about this, but when her mom, Beatriz (Zabryna Guevara) hears that Olivia is sick and her father won't help, she drives over in the middle of the night to pick her up. Instead of immediately taking her daughter back to her house, Beatriz decides it's a good time for a road trip. At first, Olivia is wary, but once they get going, everything seems to go really well. They're getting to know each other, and Olivia is even learning a little bit of Spanish. Eventually they make it Wyoming, where Olivia has always wanted to go. The trip is highlighted by many mother-daughter talks that seems weirdly parallel. At one point, Beatriz asks if Olivia is pregnant. A few scenes later, you find out Beatriz herself is pregnant. After Beatriz admits that she attempted suicide once, it comes out that Olivia did the same thing and that's why she was throwing up the night she called. This kind of thing happens over and over again. Fortunately, it's only a little over 90 minutes long.

The father has a small role, but nothing remarkable. None of the characters were terribly memorable, and I won't lie and tell you I couldn't predict the ending with excellent accuracy. In fact, the most interesting thing about the show was the set. Daniel Conway used one staircase, a bed, and a car to signify everything that went on during the play. The staircase was also a mountain and a hill in Wyoming. When I care more about what the set is doing than what's going on in the story, something's wrong.

It's not a terrible concept. We've just all heard it before. 2 stars.

26 Miles
by Quiara Alegria Hudes
Round House Theatre Bethesda
4545 East-West Highway
Running now through November 22


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