WARWICK, RI — In “Ironbound,” Darja, a Polish immigrant struggling to survive in the United States, is very much a stranger in a strange land, surrounded by flawed people who are haunted by circumstance.
The action is set at a bus stop in the urban wasteland of New Jersey. The backdrop is as unglamorous and seedy as you can imagine. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, as Darja deals with three different men at various points in her life.
There’s Tommy (Steve Kidd), a gregarious postal worker with a wandering eye; Maks (Gunnar Manchester), also an immigrant and an aspiring musician; and Vic (promising newcomer Rodney Witherspoon II), a high school student who befriends Darja.
Donnla Hughes (“A Lie Agreed Upon”) is absolutely spectacular as Darja, a deeply troubled woman with a grown son she is unable to handle. Darja used to work in a factory until it shut down. She goes on to clean the homes of wealthy women.
Many of the best moments in the play are between Hughes and Kidd. Darja and Tommy have a stormy relationship. Tommy has been cheating on her. Darja retaliates by burning the woman’s possessions. Hughes really sells Darja’s jealousy as she violently lashes out at Tommy for his cheating.
Kidd, a Gamm veteran, earns some laughs as he serenades Darja with a Bruce Springsteen song while proposing marriage. The two actors have sparkling chemistry and their interactions are laced with heartbreak and betrayal.
“Ironbound” isn’t quite in the same league as Gamm’s “A Lie Agreed Upon” and “An Octoroon,” but it is still a superior entertainment with some humor mixed in with the pathos.
Director Rachel Walshe (“Gloria)”, working from a script by Martyna Majok, draws us completely into Darja’s bleak world. It is gritty, raw, and unforgiving. We can believe there are people like her in every city, lost souls haunted by circumstance.
Majok includes incisive social commentary as Darja recalls the factories which have been closed and the jobs which have been sent overseas. As a result, millions of others like her have seen opportunities of a brighter future disappear into the darkness.
The imaginative lighting and sound design (by David Roy and Peter Sasha Hurowitz) helps to create a bleak atmosphere, as does Jessica Hill Kidd’s simple set design.
The play, which runs 90 minutes with no intermission, is worth seeing as the journey of a woman trying to navigate her way through an unfriendly world. Hughes and her co-stars invest their heart and souls into these flawed individuals with satisfying results.
Ironbound runs through April 10. The Gamm Theatre. 1245 Jefferson Blvd. Warwick. Proof of vaccination and masks are required for entry. For tickets,call 401-723-4266 or visit the gammtheatre.org.
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