Fountain Theatre’s ‘Detained’ Recycles Our Recycled Rage

By Ernest Kearney   —  It goes without saying to those in the know, that The Fountain Theatre is one of the preeminent producing venues in Los Angeles or, even the state, perhaps the nation and, arguably, in its “weight class,” the world. 

So the very worst that can be said about Detained, now appearing on its stage, is: “Been there, seen that….  Seen that a lot.”

Detained is an indictment of this country’s broken immigration system as expressed by tales of those suffering detention due to the faults of that wreckage. These so-called “illegals” brought here as infants or youths, who have worked in this country, paid its taxes for decades, married citizens, bore children here and even served in this nation’s armed forces; all of whom, eventually, found themselves running afoul of ICE, to be imprisoned and disregarded by the country they thought of as home.

Developed by France-Luce Benson and Judy Rabinovitz at New York’s Ensemble Studio Theatre, Detained points an accusing finger at every administration since Clinton’s for the debacle that now terrorizes the land like some politically motivated Frankenstein. However, while the tales told on stage at the Fountain are heart wrenching they are also so, so familiar and the attempt to stir the audience suffers from a lack of originality to the point of – and I hate to say this – “chestnut-itis.”

Even the finale of the piece, falls back on the ol’ cliché that has been overused since its first appearance in Waiting For Lefty.

Not that the fine cast here doesn’t do wonderful work, especially Will Dixon, Liana Aráuz and Theodore Perkins; and Director Mark Valdez certainly pulls a host of “rabbits” from his hat in an effort to revamp the evening: from a tad of puppetry, to employing some very slick video razzle-dazzle on an aptly punishingly austere set by Sarah Krainin.

But in the end, the evening feels like a re-run of a show that was depressing and infuriating on the first viewing, but ultimately less so on the second, perhaps third, maybe fourth viewing.

If, however, you are unaware of the suffering that is being inflicted on countless individuals and their families for the heinous sin of their wanting to be “Americans,” then Detained is a show you, definitely, should see.

If on the other hand you are well aware of the plight of these people and the flaws of the so-called system persecuting them, then may I suggest you skip this production at the Fountain Theatre* and show your solidarity with the cause by sending a generous check to one (or all) of the following:

National Immigrant Justice Center

Chicago, IL 60604

Immigration Justice Campaign

1331 G St. NW, Suite 200

Washington, D.C. 20005

ICWC Immigration Center for Women and Children

634 South Spring Street, Suite 727

Los Angeles, CA 90014

(*Wow!  In over 18 years of reviewing, this is the first time I’ve ever said that.  So, sorry Stephen, Simon and James, truly I am….)

(Featured in Main Image – Will Dixon, Theo Perkins, Christine Avila, Camila Ascencio, Michael Uribes, Liana Aráuz, Jan Munroe / Photo by Jenny Graham)

Detained is running through April 10

• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 5, 12, 19, 26; April 2, 9
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: March 6, 13, 20, 27; April 3, 10
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: March 7, 14, 21, 28; April 4 (dark Feb. 21)

The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90029
(Fountain at Normandie)


For Tickets and Additional Information:
(323) 663-1525 or

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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