THEATRE REVIEW: DEATH AND THE MAIDEN
By Jain Lemos
“Death and the Maiden” is a daring choice for Duke City Repertory Theatre’s sixth season launch. The much loved company opens with this 1990s contemplative drama on The Cell Theatre’s alternative boxcar stage. Director Katie Becker Colón takes a sensible approach to Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman’s disconcerting material, allowing for maximum awareness of the gripping dialog among the story’s three principals.
Amelia Ampuero stars as Paulina Salas, a purposeful woman who hasn’t rationally recovered from kidnapping and sexual torture at the hands of a repressive regime 15 years ago. Fatefully, an opportunity appears for her to confront the ordeal and shake out the ghosts scurrying through her psyche. This is not a timid part and Ampuero admiringly arrives for the challenge. Maneuvering barefoot she opens her door of thought and experience, rolling out a moving grasp of this troubled being.
However, there is a lot more room afforded with the character that Ampuero doesn’t take. At times, it feels as though she is reluctant to step on the pedal. Perhaps this is due to her interpretation of Paulina as a victim who refuses to breakdown lest she show a vulnerability that could destroy her. But missing are the imperfections; those out-of-control moments that could punctuate Ampuero’s performance with deeper notes.
Attacking the role of Gerardo Escobar, Paulina’s husband and new government lawyer, is Ezra Colón. Colón’s energy and ease is exemplary, with signs of his talent stretching and growing. He brings intuitive, persuasive abilities to Gerardo’s job of being the rational party to the confrontation unfolding in his home. Toward the end of the first act, he quite amazingly transforms in both appearance and tone.
Delivering a terrific reading of Roberto Miranda—the doctor who Pauline believes held her captive—is veteran thespian and playwright John Hardy. Hardy has everything needed to master the difficult nuances of this part. As Pauline was kept blindfolded and only recognizes Miranda by sound and touch, Hardy must accentuate those senses in the character and he has a magical way of doing this that is not easily accomplished. Casting Hardy is definitely the crowning achievement of this production.
Lighting designer Chesapeake Dalrymple and sound designer Martin Andrews add very special touches to Duke City Rep’s professionally executed scheme. D’Vaughn Agu’s aesthetically-pleasing scenic design is welcomed for this heady and passionate play.
Death and the Maiden runs through October 18, 2015. For more information, see their website. (Please note: Adult subject matter with strong language).
All Photos ©Jannis Schelenz