Gun and handcuffs on white background

Gun and handcuffs on white background

Image by Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker

Daniel Nelson

Alec Herrero (31, Latino, young-ish looking, ex-military) thinks it’s a routine deportation assignment when he tracks down Gracie Reyes (23, Chicana, small, striking, physically fragile) in a hospital bed in Kentucky.

“Discover, detain, deport. It’s all legal. It’s … I put them in the van, bats in a cage, and I just drive.”

But he’s in for a surprise.

Herrero just wants to get the job done so he can earn some money and get on with the next arrest and deportation. Reyes is shell-shocked to find herself recovering from a serious road accident, arrested for an unpaid rental car fine, handcuffed, frogmarched into a transport van, and being driven to Mexico, which she left aged five when her family migrated to the US.

Their unwillingly shared journey is the subject of Tegan McLeod’s taut 90-minute play, Lunatic 19’s: A Deportational Road Trip. Sharply written and powerfully acted, it’s got more plot twists than the highway to the border.

Despite her vulnerability in a headbrace and cuffs, the feisty Reyes uses her wits and words to get under the skin of the initially taciturn Herrero, squeezing information out of him about his wife and sister. They shift from captor and captive into two human beings wrestling with problems and prospects.

Reyes’ situation dramatises the cruelty that ensues from migration decisions (and if you consider it over-dramatised look at the details of the conditions in which some children are detained in the United States) and the characters’ truck tango forces you to think about the everyday lives of migrants guilty of minor misdemeanors as well as of the people who police those lives.

In the end the Reyes’ storyline  tips the balance away from migration issues, leaving the play slightly off-kilter, but overall it’s a fast-moving, gripping, coruscating production.

The title? “Under the new executive order number 19, any illegal immigrant who has committed a crime will be immediately deported from hence they came.” The number 19 crops up several other times, which is a coincidence – or is it?

* Lunatic 19’s: A Deportational Road Trip, £18/£16, is at the Finborough Theatre, Finborough Street, SW!0, until 3 August. Info:




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