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Connie Wookey: Denied Under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act

Connie Wookey - Ali Wright
Connie Wookey – Ali Wright

I’ve heard from various people who have gone over to the United States for extended periods of time (usually for work purposes) who say that while the American people are, by and large, very friendly, US immigration officials are rather more abrupt to say the least. Connie Wookey’s portrayal of government employees is more affable than a show title like Denied Under Section 221(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act would suggest. I am not an attorney, and cannot make much sense of the said paragraph, which refers to Section 212 of the same Act, “or any other provision of law”. So Connie’s (first name terms for such a warm and friendly persona) interpretation will have to suffice. Her application for a US visa has “been, like, frozen”.

Cue a parody of ‘Let It Go’ from the Disney film and Broadway musical Frozen. There are quite a few tunes with reworked lyrics to suit the narrative, and the transition from song to spoken word and back again (and so on) was remarkably smooth. There is a plethora of temporary visas that can be applied for – looking up the list after the show, I wasn’t even aware, for instance, not having worked in the aviation industry, that flight crew members require a certain type of visa (that is, different to a regular employer-sponsored visa). As far as this show goes, I must admit I zoned out somewhat when Connie started differentiating between the F1 visa and the O1 – the consolation being that although I cannot recall what the distinctions are, I’m also not giving everything away.

But that was the only moment when my concentration went awry. Overall, the narrative provides a bittersweet atmosphere. Piece by piece, with other scenes about Connie’s time in the United States being told in between the said pieces, a tale unravels about an uncomfortable journey on a plane with a malfunction unknown even to the pilot. I trust it is not too much of a spoiler to say she made it, having lived to tell the story. The sound levels were well balanced during the show – at first, I thought the keyboards were a little quiet, but at that volume every lyric could be heard perfectly.

Musical numbers to be enjoyed included one about the American drama series ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ and another about the uncivilised behaviours of certain customers when Connie worked as a waitress, and then as a member of bar staff. Details about going on a ‘women’s march’ and the dangers of not having adequate (if any) health insurance in America are entirely credible (after all, this is, the audience is told, a true story) but are not entirely congruent with the main plotline about navigating through US visa requirements in order to perform on the other side of the Atlantic, or the subplot about a relative’s funeral.

Still, it’s a spirited and energetic (if brief) performance, with a set kept simple. I had the rare experience of enjoying the little bit of audience participation involved. The two faces of theatre, comedy and tragedy, are both very much evident in a fast-paced and charming production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

In February this year my cousin died in a plane crash. I flew to the funeral. My plane stopped working mid-flight. Good….
This is a true story.
https://canalcafetheatre.com

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