Review: Immigrant Women Find One Another In "Lost Sock Laundry"

Lost Sock Laundry

Written by Ivan Faute

Directed by Madelyn Chapman

Presented by UP Theater at Fort Washington Collegiate Church

729 W 181st St., Manhattan, NYC

April 10-27, 2024

 Michelle Feza Kuchuk, Haneen Arafat Murphy, and Maria Peyramaure. Photo by Jody Christopherson
In Ivan Faute's Lost Sock Laundry, a communal space functions as a microcosm of New York City, which functions, or has the potential to, as a microcosm of the nation. A neighborhood laundromat provides the site for the play's examination of how strangers become neighbors become friends, how the bounds and bonds of community can form, shift, and grow. At the same time, such boundaries, including the literal borders of the nation, are policed in multiple ways, and characters' everyday personal and familial dramas are thus also haunted by xenophobia and hostile government policies. With compassion, humor, and authenticity, Lost Sock Laundry–which is offering Spanish translated performances on Saturday, April 20th at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 27th at 3:00 p.m., along with an ASL Translated performance on Thursday, April 25 at 8:00 p.m.–assembles a poignant portrait from snapshots of the lives of first- and second-generation and newly arrived working-class immigrant women and their families in Queens.
Yasmin Ranz-Lind and Jesse Castellanos. Photo by Jody Christopherson
Lost Sock Laundry unfolds on a set, designed by Duane Pagano, that brings us inside a brightly lit laundromat in famously multicultural Astoria, complete with mismatched chairs and clothes that will be donated at the end of the show's run. The play is divided into "moments" in 2017-2018, often with national or international headlines, from the suspension of DACA to the progress of the so-called migrant caravan, projected as context at the beginning of each scene. When the show begins, Irene (Michelle Feza Kuchuk), whose grandmother immigrated from Greece and whose divorce is stuck in limbo, is extolling the importance of rules–in relation to using the laundromat but with clear larger resonances. Irene's friend Micaela (Maria Peyramaure), a first-generation Mexican-American woman, holds forth on some of the difficulties of her labor as a mother, including dealing with a neighbor who complains about her family to the super (an avatar of authority). Some of these women's mundane conversation reminds us how using the laundromat involves competition over inadequate resources, just like life in the U.S. writ large. Before long, the pair meets Dina (Haneen Arafat Murphy), a Lebanese woman who is new to the laundromat as well as to the United States. Dina's difficulties with the washing machines provoke different reactions in Irene and Micaela that begin to draw the threads of these three lives together.
Jesse Castellanos and Fernando Mateo Jr. Photo by Jody Christopherson
While the trio do discuss immigrant life–Micaela’s relative, for example, must live with the fear of deportation even though she has been in the United States since she was an infant and now has an American husband and a baby of her own, and the rather unfiltered Irene bluntly asks Dina at one point why she came to the U.S.–the production’s focus is not, as the program notes, immigration as such but rather these lives, which are impacted but not defined solely by and through relocation to a new nation. Irene, Dina, and Micaela share their thoughts on everything from religion to (expectations around) paying bills to the propriety of middle school dances, as well as various of their individual struggles. Micaela’s husband Jorge (Fernando Mateo Jr.), for instance, is affectionate and wants the best for his children but also does not really understand the amount of labor that his wife performs (encapsulated in the symbol of her constant battle against the ever-renewed grease on Jorge's work overalls). Her older son Kelvin (Jesse Castellanos) is hanging out with friends she sees as undesirable and gets in trouble at school, although there is more going on there than it appears. Irene has no children but does have a less than ideal boyfriend named Eric (also Fernando Mateo Jr.), while Dina must deal with caring for three children even as her husband must work at a job far beneath his qualifications. As relationships evolve, even who is helping whom fold sheets at a given time takes on subtle significance. All of these interconnected evolutions are embodied by a terrific cast, whether Castellanos telling Kelvin’s side of events at school; Mateo conjuring compellingly distinct characters as Jorge, Eric, and laundromat manager Aram; Yasmin Ranz-Lind lending just the right touch of timorousness to Dina's daughter Sana; or the wonderfully naturalistic dynamic that Kuckuk, Peyramaure, and Murphy create among the leading trio's contrasting personalities. The play’s impeccably conceived conclusion underlines the cyclicity (and multitudinousness) of communal change–a moving ending to our brief immersion in these families' lives that also promises another new beginning.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards


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