Arts theater review

An American story of resilience and vulnerability, DACAmented

Alex Alpharaoh provides powerful, uplifting, and heartbreaking writing and performing in his retelling of his story as an undocumented person

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Alex Alpharaoh stars in his one-actor play 'WET: A DACAmented Journey.'
Courtesy of Ray Shaw

WET: A DACAmented Journey
Written by Alex Alpharaoh
Emerson Paramount Center
Playing Nov. 8–25

WET: A DACAmented Journey, written and performed by Alex Alpharaoh (who refers to himself as Anner Cividavis in the play), is an emotionally packed, humorous play that weaves in and out of Alpharaoh’s reenactments, narration, and spoken-word retelling of the struggles in his and his family’s life as an undocumented immigrant to the United States.

It is a unique challenge to stage and write dialogue for a one-actor play that will engage an audience, but Alpharaoh uses his variety of voices, good story pacing, and range of talents in acting, spoken word poetry, and heartfelt monologues to the play’s success. The lighting, music, and audio elements of the play make the space seem warm (using gentle blue lighting and mellow hip-hop), harsh (from red beams and screeching noises), or isolating (with spotlights and silence), which helps add a sense of atmosphere that fills in any gaps that a play with a larger cast may have left.

The brightest parts of this play are all the vibrant characters Alpharaoh brings to life. His vocalization and physicality of each person is genuine and unique, which adds to the audience’s immersion. For the people he loves, Alpharaoh instills a sense of resilience in their dialogue and actions, and for the people who stood against him, he laces fear-mongering in their writing.  Alpharaoh switches back and forth between reflections he makes about these moments with them. A scene never feels droning because of this stylistic choice.

The play also gains a sense of rhythm that effectively guides the audience in and out of their emotions of sadness, anger, happiness, anxiety, and relief. To make political statements, Alpharaoh will often go into spoken word to passionately explain immigration legislation or racism’s effect on him and other people like him. To focus on a certain emotional moment, Alpharaoh will break out of the reenactment to describe what he was feeling in the moment, or he’ll try to lighten the atmosphere by cracking a joke then transitioning into a happier moment.

Cividanis’s parents, to whom he dedicated this play, are from Guatemala. Alpharaoh waits until the audience is deeply acquainted with his sense of belonging in the United States, before giving us a scene set in Guatemala or one about his parents’ pasts. Some of the most impactful scenes are the ones showing what his mother went through to get to the United States; he rapidly switches between physicalizing her fear and pain and returning to his monologue retelling, escalating the tension and stress of the scene.

The message from the story is that no matter what happens, he and other undocumented people will always be a part of our nation. As Alpharaoh says, no matter which policy or leader chooses to label them the “shame of the country” he will always have grown up here, raised a daughter here, spent the last days with his father here, and called this country home. In the eyes of all of us who have sat through, cried, and laughed with him during this performance, he is American.

Update 11/22/18: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Alex Alpharaoh as Anner Cividavis, which is his given name but not the name he goes by.