New City Players’ 1000 Miles a journey of the immigrant experience

Daniel Llaca, left, Arlette del Toro, Charisma Jolly, Dayana Morales, Rayner Gabriel and, rear, Cloudy Nonome in green poncho in New City Players production of “1000 Miles.” Photo by Ryan Arnst


By Oline H. Cogdill
The immigrant experience with its promises for a new start wrapped in the frightening reality of the suspicion of strangers, the fear of the unknown and the loss of what has been left behind are infused into New City Players’ 1000 Miles. South Florida playwright Vanessa Garcia’s unique drama is making its world premiere through March 24 at the Island City Stage in Wilton Manors.

1000 Miles continues Garcia’s reputation for thought-provoking plays that mine the intersection of cultures, including #Grace and Sweet Goats and Blueberry Señoritas written with co-author poet Richard Blanco. Garcia also wrote the successful immersive show, The Amparo Experience.

In 1000 Miles, Garcia presents a dystopian society that may be in the future — or next week — as five characters navigate this world that offers promises that can be snatched away too easily. Garcia’s 1000 Miles also tackles xenophobia, the price of freedom, how surveillance meant to keep us safe can rob us of privacy, and how one’s identity and heritage can be eroded.

Rayner Gabriel and Charisma Jolly in New City Players production of “1000 Miles.” Photo by Ryan Arnst

Director Elizabeth Price assuredly maneuvers her cast that draws in the audience in this often interactive production. Each member of this solid ensemble cast has shown their prowess in other productions but 1000 Miles gives each a chance to shine in their roles.

Solis (an insightful Charisma Jolly) arrives in The City, which purports to offer a safe haven for arrivals, following a traumatic crossing from a thousand miles across the sea, which is her war-torn country where she had no future. It wasn’t just a hard crossing, tragedies happened from which she still suffers nightmares. “. . . survival was the only thing we cared about. There is no tomorrow when today is in question,” Solis says.

Daniel Llaca, left, and Arlette del Toro in New City Players production of “1000 Miles.” Photo by Ryan Arnst

Solis is hoping The City will be full of possibilities, even though fitting in and finding her place will be problematic. The City is no mecca given the bombings and protests occasionally marring the landscape.

Solis is told she has a few days to find work or she will be sent back. She stumbles into a watch repair shop owned by Peter (a standout Rayner Gabriel) who insists he has no money to pay her. But Solis wears him down, proving she has unusual skills with watches that may bring him customers.

Peter frequents a bar owned by his old friend Maria (a compassionate Arlette del Toro) who has recently hired a new bartender Viola (an appealing Dayana Morales) who has lived in The City 15 years but is still considered “a new arrival.”

Arlette del Toro hugs Rayner Gabriel in New City Players production of “1000 Miles.” Photo by Ryan Arnst

They are joined by Mark (a striking Daniel Llaca), Peter’s brother who has been away for a while working on a marketing project for the government.

Their reaction to living in The City and their relationships to each other form the crux of 1000 Miles.

The interactive aspect of  1000 Miles begins as soon as audience members arrive. “Guards,” played by Tyler Johnson Grimes, Joanna Orrego, Megan DeGraff, and Tim Davis (also New City Players’ Producing Artistic Director) check in the audience members as if they are just coming to The City.

Charisma Jolly, left, and Dayana Morales in New City Players production of “1000 Miles.” Photo by Ryan Arnst

Then City Guard, played by Cloudy Nonome wearing a green poncho, again checks in the arrivals, handing each an envelope containing a postcard of The City and its surroundings, and an ID badge designating each person as a “citizen” or “refugee,” who are told when they have to find employment. In our party of three, one was given citizen status, the other two labeled refugees; one of whom had four days to find a job, the other seven days.

Upon entering the theater, each person is given a small battery lantern that they will be asked to turn on often during the play. Actors will frequently break the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience.

1000 Miles is a strong script with sharp dialogue and solid characters. Peter’s job repairing watches works as a persuasive metaphor about the intersection of time — past, present and future. A clock, even one that is broken, becomes a talisman for another character. But this new work could use a bit more retooling and some trimming, especially the first act.

Arlette del Toro in New City Players production of “1000 Miles.” Photo by Ryan Arnst

Price makes the most of Island City’s intimate space, aided by the effective set designed by Shannon Veguilla divided into Peter’s watch shop, a scaffold that serves myriad scenes, a small bedding area and Maria’s well-stocked bar, all in muted colors reflecting the situation. Annabel Herrera’s lighting, Jameelah Bailey’s props and set dressing and Tyler Johnson Grimes’s sound (aided no doubt by the passing Brightline) further set the tone.

The world is full of stories about the immigrant experience as Garcia illustrates in 1000 Miles.

New City Players presents 1000 Miles through March 24 at Island City Stage, 2304 N. Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors. Performances 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays; 3 p.m. March 23. Running time approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission. Post-show talkbacks after Sunday performances to explore the themes and process of the play. $40 for adults; $35 for seniors 65 and over; $25 for students (under 25 with ID). Call 954-376-6114 or


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