Review: New Musical 'Miss You Like Hell' Bumpy Ride
Immigration, parental absence and cyber-relationships all figure in to the road trip musical “Miss You Like Hell,” an earnest — and now very Trump-topical — show that too often gets stuck in a traffic jam of multiple themes, characters and storylines. The book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, writer of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Water by the Spoonful” and the Tony-winning musical “In the Heights,” has the same longing spirit of both of those tenderhearted shows. Now playing at Off Broadway’s Public Theater after a premiere in late 2016 at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse, “Miss You Like Hell” — an exploration and refinement of Hudes’ earlier play “26 Miles” — is overstuffed with ideas and incidents that don’t add up to a sweeping, satisfying whole.
Long-absent mom Beatriz (Daphne Rubin-Vega) unexpectedly arrives at the doorstep of her 16-year-old, half-Latina daughter Olivia (Gizel Jiménez), who is living with her father in Philadelphia. Beatriz wants her to go on a weeklong road trip for some much-deferred mommy time, but Olivia, with her heart broken too many times by the mother who abandoned her, is understandably wary.
Beatriz is concerned about her daughter’s dark demeanor, especially after reading the blog by the literature-loving Olivia, “Calling All Castaways,” which reveal hints of suicide.
Unbeknownst to Olivia is the fact that this cross-country journey has another purpose: The trip will end in an immigration hearing for the Mexico-born Beatriz, and where the daughter’s testimony could help her mother from being deported.
But the show almost stalls just as it begins, starting with Beatriz’ sketchy 4 a.m. arrival, the vagueness of Olivia’s unseen father, and the too-quick-to-be-true acceptance of the road trip invite.