Thursday, 13 March 2003

Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman , March 13, 2003

Death and the Maiden  by Ariel Dorfman 
Chapel off Chapel, until March 16, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Death and the Maiden is a fine piece of writing by Ariel Dorfman. This production, directed by Anthony Georgio goes some way to fulfilling the potential of the script.

Dorfman's play deals with the aftermath of a despotic regime in Latin America. It is a claustrophobic story set in an isolated beach house where Paulina  (Brenda McKinty) lives with her politician husband, Gerardo  (Justin Bechtold)

Paulina wakes one night to find that her husband's house guest is the man she believes to be her former torturer. She wreaks her own vengeance on him by beating him unconscious then gagging and tying him. Her aim is not to kill him but to put him on trial with her husband's assistance.

Issues of justice and democracy are challenged in this play. What do we do when we meet the perpetrators of violence? Do we kill them, punish them, judge or forgive them?

Georgio focuses appropriately on the relationships between the three characters. The alliances and conflicts shift constantly in Dorfman's dialogue.

At times the pace of the production flags, particularly between scenes. However, there is some merit in this production. McKinty gives a passionate performance as the damaged victim. She is vulnerable and powerful in turn.

There are some vocal weaknesses in the male performers. As Gerardo, Bechtold is competent but lacks the power of a man who is now a radical politician. Michael Collins plays the unwitting visitor as a colourless and weak man, which works to some degree.

The set design is simple and naturalistic. Lighting is dim and shadowy which is evocative at times and annoyingly dark at others.

The show is compelling because of Dorfman's cunning plot.

By Kate Herbert

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