The ride on the “Night Train to Bolina” is bumpy and arduous. The production, directed by Steven Garza ’12 and produced by Barbara Cigarroa ’12 and Ulises Ceja ’13, tells the chilling story of two wayward children and explores the difficulty of young love in a Latin America devastated by war and violence. With its tragic take on adolescence, “Night Train to Bolina” is an unconventional journey through deceptively familiar territory.
The play, written by Nico Cruz, is about two young friends, Mateo and Carla, in mid-eighties Latin America. Mateo (Murat Dagli ’14) is abused regularly by his mother, while Carla (Rebecca Edelman ’14) wishes she could be more obedient to satisfy her demanding family. Emotionally detached from their families, the friends take refuge in each other’s company as they confess their secret hiding places, seek answers from God, and plot to escape their drought-ravaged village.
Their journey takes them from their rural homes to a bustling city plagued by warfare and military atrocities. There, they grapple with the pain of youth and loneliness, taking refuge in a Catholic mission where they are separated from one another. “Night Train” navigates the lines between childhood and adulthood and between illusion and reality. At times, it is a delirious fantasy; at others, it is grounded in the ruthlessness of the real world. By the end of the ordeal, Mateo and Carla have lost their innocence without quite growing up.
In one particularly poignant scene, Mateo worries about having his genitals cut off. Carla assures him that she would love him even more if he were a girl because she could brush and braid his hair. Moments like these have a touch of sad humor to them, serving as reminders that Carla and Mateo are not as mature as they otherwise seem to be.
For their parts, Dagli and Edelman do a commendable job of playing their characters as they shift in and out of childhood. Dagli’s portrayal of a child’s unreasonable fears and expectations and Edeleman’s embodiment of the naïve and impressionable Carla are highly convincing. Their natural chemistry makes the interaction between them engaging to watch and the tender moments gritty and dynamic.
One of these moments comes with the realization of just how little these children have. Before escaping to the city, they play their regular game at a cemetery, pretending to be the people marked on the gravestones. For them, this game serves as a means to connect with one another when they are apart throughout the rest of the play. For the audience, however, it demonstrates the sense of loss that the children carry with them and underlines how vital their relationship is to their survival.
Cosima Cabrera ’14’s performance is also particularly moving. As Talita, she conveys the anxiety of a young woman eager for a mother’s love. In this way, she acts as a fitting foil to Carla, whose sole concern is Mateo.
Trumbull College’s Nick Chapel acts as the perfect setting for “Night Train.” The intimacy of this particular space allows the performances of the actors to shine through. With a simple set-up and little in the way of frills, the play would have easily been overwhelmed in a larger venue, but here, the emotion of the work is able to fill the room. The play is particularly adept at using symbols like the cemetery and the act of prayer to explore the murky area where seemingly normal existence is punctuated by tinges of darkness and death.
From the mournful guitar that commences the play to the eerie and enigmatic finale, “Night Train to Bolina” takes you on an trip rife with fear and loss that shakes your faith in the purity of youth while reifying the saving power of love.