To The Bone OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Monique Carboni
  • NY TIMES

  • TM

  • L&S AMERICA

  • NEW YORK THEATER

  • THEATER PIZZAZZ

Opening Night:
September 9, 2014
Closing:
October 4, 2014

Theater: Cherry Lane Theatre / 38 Commerce Street, New York, NY, 10014

Synopsis: 

Inspired by actual interviews, To The Bone examines the very nature of equality and justice in contemporary America through the eyes of five women whose migration to the U.S. in search of a better life brings its own test of the human spirit.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF To The Bone

    Soul-Stifling Jobs in the Land of Plenty ‘To the Bone,’ by Lisa Ramirez, About Immigrant Workers

    Alexis Soloski

    September 17, 2014: Olga, Reina and Juana spend their days in an upstate factory, knifing breasts from chicken carcasses. At night they eat and pray and take Motrin to soothe their aching arms, still wearing layers of sweaters. After the factory’s chill, they can’t get warm. It’s difficult and sometimes dangerous work, disgusting too, but as Lisa Ramirez’s To the Bone at the Cherry Lane Theater suggests, these immigrant women have little choice. When Olga (Ms. Ramirez), a legal resident, suggests that they defend their rights, Reina (Annie Henk) dismisses her. “Not all of us are as lucky as you,” she says. “It’s easy to say no when you have a green card.” As part of this year’s Theater: Village festival, Ms. Ramirez has created a play about women hoping for a better life, but too cowed to ask for even a morning bathroom break. A distaff answer to Elizabeth Irwin’s My Mañana Comes, which centers on busboys and finishes its run at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater on Saturday, To The Bone explores the toll low-wage work exacts from the spirit. The play observes how this houseful of women — which includes Olga’s daughter, Lupe, and Reina’s niece Carmen — support and betray, protect and harm one another.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF To The Bone

    Lisa Ramirez gives a platform to the voices of illegal immigrants working at a poultry factory

    David Gordon

    September 17, 2014: The plight of the undocumented worker seems to be on the tip of off-Broadway's tongue these days, what with Elizabeth Irwin's My Mañana Comes at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater and now Lisa Ramirez's To the Bone at the Cherry Lane Theatre. While Irwin explores male Mexican émigrés working as Manhattan restaurant busboys, Ramirez takes the female track in her new drama, following a trio of women who immigrated to the United States looking for a better life and instead work in a poultry plant in New York State's Sullivan County. Inspired by interviews Ramirez conducted with Latina immigrants, To the Bone dramatizes their stories as opposed to creating a piece of verbatim theater. The playwright herself takes the leading role as the strong-willed and strong-minded Olga, who is determined to win better working conditions for herself and her undocumented living companions Reina (Annie Henk) and Juana (Liza Fernandez). A secondary plotline follows the arrival of Carmen (Xochitl Romero), Reina's niece, who is brutally attacked at the hands of the factory's manager, Daryl (Haynes Thigpen).

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  • LIGHTING AND SOUND AMERICA REVIEW OF To The Bone

    To the Bone (Cherry Lane Theatre)

    David Barbour

    September 17, 2014: There must be something in the air: To the Bone is the second play this month examining the plight of undocumented workers who prop up the US economy with nothing but scars to show for it. The first was My Mañana Comes, produced by The Playwrights Realm, about restaurant workers in Manhattan. It's indicative of the subject's richness that these plays are thoroughly unalike, but for one thing: Both are tense, gripping dramas that are all but guaranteed to make your blood boil. In To the Bone, the playwright Lisa Ramirez looks at houseful of Latina women living in Sullivan County, New York. Three of them work long hours in a chicken processing plant, a job that leaves them exhausted and prey to repetitive stress injuries. Olga, the house's owner, is Salvadoran, but she has a green card, giving her an advantage over the others; she is also one tough cookie, a truth-teller with an acid tongue. Olga doesn't care who she offends, be it her tenants or the plant management that treats them like dirt. Sharing their home is Reina, a Honduran, who has spent so many years in the US trying to get ahead that her children back home no longer speak to her, and Juana, a Guatemalan whose sleepwalking episodes hint at the tragedy that haunts her. Unlike Olga, Reina and Juana are deeply religious, go-along-to-get-along types. They dare not be noticed, for fear of being sent home. Olga's daughter, Lupe, is a branch off the same tree, a feisty, hip-hop-loving college student -- she writes her own raps -- who plans to be a lawyer and fight injustice. (Her ambition is to attend NYU, a notion that keeps Olga up nights.)

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  • NEW YORK THEATER REVIEW OF To The Bone

    Immigrant Women In A Hazardous Industry

    Jonathan Mandell

    September 17, 2014: In To The Bone, an exquisitely acted and splendidly directed new play by Lisa Ramirez that’s part of the Theater:Village Festival, Reina greets her niece Carmen, who is newly arrived from Honduras, with the news that she is going to try to get her a job in the local poultry plant. “Why would you send your niece to work there?” Olga, Reina’s housemate, says to her with contempt. “Olga, stay out of this,” Reina spits. “I wouldn't send my daughter to work there,” Olga says. But Olga herself works there, as does Reina, and the other woman in the household, Juana, who is so stressed-out that she has the disturbing habit of sleepwalking, accompanied by zombie-like utterances such as “Go back, go back” and “Dirt like smoke.” They are Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan women, documented or undocumented, who feel they have no choice but to work at a job they hate, with an abusive boss. They are among the many immigrant women in the United States who work in the meatpacking industry, which the United States Department of Labor has classified as one of the nation’s most hazardous industries, with the highest rate of injuries. Over the past decade, poultry processing plants in Sullivan County, about 100 miles north of New York City in upstate New York, have replaced the chopped liver and comedy that once thrived in the now-defunct Catskills resorts of “the Borscht Belt.”

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  • THEATER PIZZAZZ REVIEW OF To The Bone

    Lisa Ramirez’s To the Bone

    Marcina Zaccaria

    September 17, 2014: To the Bone is about Latina poultry workers inside the U.S. It is a gritty production, exposing the harsh world behind food production. Ramirez, who is the author of the successful Off-Broadway production Exit Cuckoo, takes on immigration and hardship in To the Bone. In some ways, the writing is Americana at its best, revealing the heart-warming and heart-breaking realities of farm country. Ramirez interviewed real people over six months in Sullivan County in New York State to create To the Bone. The workers in the play gut chickens in a chicken factory. After carving them with a knife, they place them on an assembly line. Tensions arise from unhealthy working conditions. As the drama unfolds, we find that the women are more than factory workers. They are mothers and sisters and valued members of their community. In searching for new opportunities, they find a difficult world where struggle is combined with honor. Ramirez plays Olga. She is able to give a stunning sense of the place, the people, and the moment. It is a politically charged production. Ramirez is unafraid in her portrayal as a factory worker who takes a stand against injustice.

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