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Theater Fri Jun 27 2014
Photo by Michael Courier.
Ariel Dorfman's political play, Death and the Maiden, was written in 1991, soon after the end of the rule of political strongman Augusto Pinochet in Dorfman's Chile. But the underlying theme of the drama, which just opened in a gripping production at Victory Gardens Theatre, can apply to other governments and even to personal relationships.
Victory Gardens is taking full advantage of the celebrity wattage of the play's star, Sandra Oh, in marketing and special events around the production. Oh plays Paulina Salas, a woman who was tortured and raped during the era of a dictator "in a country that is probably Chile." Sometimes these "movie star" stage turns are unfortunate, but Oh is an accomplished stage actor, as well as a TV and film star. Her performance in Death and the Maiden is strong and subtle and carries the 90-minute production to its unsettling ending.
Raul Castillo plays Gerardo Escobar, a lawyer who has just been appointed to lead a commission to investigate the crimes and criminals of the past. John Judd plays Roberto Miranda, who enters the couple's life after he helps Gerardo fix a flat tire as he's driving home to the Escobars' beachhouse. The story proceeds as Paulina decides Roberto is the man who tortured and raped her years ago. She ties him up and holds him hostage -- at the point of a gun -- demanding that he confess his crimes.
The question the play asks us is: Should we seek justice -- or vengeance -- for crimes of the past or is it better to forgive and move on? Chay Yew's direction creates a moving and ambiguous answer. William Boles' beautifully designed rotating set is an important facet of the production. The music, Schubert's quartet, "Death and the Maiden," is almost a character in the play.
Please see my detailed review of this play on theandygram.com, a theater opinion and news website.
Death and the Maiden runs through July 20 at Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln. Performances are at varying times Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets are $40-70 and you can buy them online or by calling 773-871-3000. For more information, see the Victory Gardens website.