“Miss You Like Hell” at The Public Theater is the latest from Pulitzer writer, Quiara Alegria Hudes, (In The Heights) . The play is both well staged and directed with lighting design that is both chic and upbeat. It is the story of a mother and daughter who up till the beginning of the show had very little contact with one another. The daughter Olivia, Gizel Jimenez), is a 16 year old brainiaic, who thinks she is dead from the neck down, has contemplated suicide , is in a group chat with people from around the country. Olivia is a bohemian young girl from Philadelphia who is going through adolescence and seems angry at the world. Her mom comes one morning at 4 am to pick her up and tells her she wants to spend the next seven days with her. Beatriz,(Daphine Robin-Vega), commands this show, she is comedic, as a matter of factually, and pragmatic in the ways of the world. She has a lot to teach her daughter over the next seven days. Beatriz is a passionate women when it comes to living and loving. She is running the risk of being deported for a minor infraction many years ago. She fails to tell Olivia that she needs to come to California to be a character witness on her behalf. Olivia, does not know what to say, she has lost custody to the father who is Caucasian, and an American citizen.
As we see the two moving throughout the country, both Riccardo Hernandez with his scenic design and Tyler Micoleau’s lighting design and wonderful in keeping true to the plot and the different moods and confrontations that these two encounter along the way. The same can be said for the direction of the play, Lear Debessonet keeps this hour and forty five minutes moving as does the brilliant choreography of Danny Mefford. The songs are all really pretty as well as forceful, you hear the songs being sung beautifully but not forced fed to the audience. Songs like: “Sundays”, “Dance with Me” and ” Now I’m Here” are particularly notable as well as moving. “dance with Me” tells of the mother telling the daughter to enjoy life, don’t let anyone take advantage of you, to stand up for yourself and live your life not so uptight as kids today often do.
“Miss You Like Hell” is a page from what Joseph Papp had in mind over 60 years ago. The play is thought provoking as it is heart felt. What was even more remarkable is even though this show was supposed to be “radically inclusive” and “fundamentally Democratic” as there mission statement states, it was an evening that any political party could watch and not be offended. Liberals and Conservatives can both enjoy this play as it was not obnoxious in it’s message. The songs, the writing, the direction, choreography and the great lighting all come together to make this musical work nicely.
“Miss You Like Hell” runs at the beautiful Newman Theater, at the Public Theater. The seating on stage adds to the intimacy of this show, it gave the stage/theater a a clubby feel, the warmth of the East Village, all the while not losing it’s bohemian edge. The costumes also added to the bohemian mood of the performance. From the lawyer to the gay married couple that motorcycle around the country living there lives, this play has a lot of humor both underlying and in your face. The support cast and the stars of this show make it a great evening down at Astor Place.