Award-winning Irish writer and actor Sonya Kelly brings her sweet, quirky and funny show How to Keep an Alien to premier at the Irish Arts Center after a tour in Ireland and offers a unique heartwarming window into the absurd process of applying for a de facto partner visa.
How to Keep an Alien follows the Irish creator and performer Sonya as she falls in love with the Australian Kate (who is soon to be deported) and their attempt to persuade the Department of Immigration that they should have the right to live together in Ireland. Watching the paperwork pile up as they navigate not only ordinary relationship obstacles but also those presented by long distance and the government, makes both your heart and smile muscles ache for their plight.
Witty, smartly written and saturated with a love for language, there are moments of true literary poetry amongst the smart self-deprecating humor. Well-structured, well-paced and with well-delivered jokes, Sonya clearly has a background in comedy. She delivers her story with genuine charm, physical comedy and true theatre geekyness. Sonya Kelly is a woman acutely self-aware of her charm and her limitations- and soars because of it.
While some might describe this as a solo show, Kelly describes this as more of a “one and three-quarter person” show. Her stage manager, Paul Curley, interjects with cues, other characters, and even croons a song. He is slick if not a little “musical theatery” in his delivery. Their interaction is fun and adds even more momentum to the story.
Director Gina Moxley did a fantastic job of keeping our attention 100% engaged. The set design was simple and smart- lots of design choices supporting the show in a colorful but understated way: From the sail-like backdrop supporting the secondary story of Kate’s possibly Irish ancestors to the way paperwork was draped over a table to suggest a tent in the Australian bush.
This is not Sonya Kelly’s first not-quite-solo show. She also created and performed The Wheelchair On My Face: a look back at my myopic childhood (in the U.S. aka I Can See Clearly Now), a show about her near blindness and the ridicule she endured because of her Coke-bottle-bottom glasses versus the sympathy she would elicit if her disability had put her in a wheelchair. I can only imagine it was filled with just as much witty good-hearted humor and Irish-ness as this charming show.
How to Keep an Alien is a lovely 75 minute perspective on the challenges of immigration and a true love story appropriate for those who want to put a smile on their face, need a reminder that love is out there, and that even the ordinary obstacles in life can be the grandest adventure.