Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Miss You Like Hell
Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Gun & Powder and report on the 2020 Helen Hayes Awards Nominations

Valeria Morales and Karmine Alers
Photo by Stan Barouh
Quiara Alegria Hudes won the Pulitzer Prize for her play Water by the Spoonful and wrote the book to Lin-Manuel Miranda's music and lyrics for In the Heights. She has a unique theatrical voice and perspective, which is why Miss You Like Hell, her musical now at the Olney Theatre Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, is such a disappointment.

Hudes, daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a Jewish father, writes about the Latinx experience in the United States, but this work never really gels; one scene follows another with little momentum. She wrote the book and lyrics for the musical, with music and lyrics by Erin McKeown, which follows the fraught relationship between a mother and daughter from opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The action begins when Beatriz (Karmine Alers), living undocumented in Los Angeles, arrives outside the Philadelphia home where her daughter Olivia (Valeria Morales) lives with her father, determined to take the 16-year-old girl away for some mother-daughter bonding. (Olivia, a blogger whose only emotional connections are with the "castaways" who follow her posts, recently dropped a hint that she was considering suicide.)

Olivia is understandably skeptical about this—and she doesn't know exactly what her mother plans to do—but they head off together into the heart of America. They meet a longtime gay couple (Bradley Mott and Lawrence Redmond), determined to get married in every one of the 50 states, and a kindhearted Peruvian immigrant (Carlos L. Encinias), who makes and sells tamales in South Dakota. One of Olivia's readers (powerful-voiced Kayla Gross) is a junior ranger at Yellowstone National Park, so Beatriz adds it to the itinerary. Despite her attempts to stay undetected, Beatriz briefly lands in jail following a routine police stop.

The problem is that, despite Lisa Portes' streamlined direction, the pieces never really add up to make a complete picture. The closest to a philosophy is "If we tie a raft together, are we really lost at sea?" Portes allows the action to spread out on Milagros Ponce de León's minimalist set of decorated platforms and a few pieces of furniture, given context by Thomas Ontiveros' projections.

Miss You Like Hell runs through March 1, 2020, on the mainstage at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney MD. For tickets and information, please call 301-924-3400 or visit

Book and lyrics by Quiara Alegria Hudes
Music and lyrics by Erin McKeown
Directed by Lisa Portes
Choreography by Breon Arzell
Music director: Walter "Bobby" McCoy

Beatriz: Karmine Alers
Olivia: Valeria Morales
Pearl/Castaway: Kayla Gross
Mo/Castaway: Bradley Mott
Higgins/Castaway: Lawrence Redmond
Manuel/Castaway: Carlos L. Encinias
Lawyer/Castaway: Kara-Tameika Watkins
Police Officer/Castaway: Michael Wood
Court Clerk: Olivia Ashley Reed
Motel Clerk/Castaway: Jay Frisby
ICE Agent/Castaway: Jyline Carranza