Ariel Dorfman had his native Argentina in mind when he penned Death and the Maiden, but 15 years of the "war" on terror, Gitmo, and torture as policy keeps the play firmly in mind.
Buoyed by three strong, intense performances, and measured and thoughtful direction from David Mann, the Torch Theater/Gremlin Theatre co-production now playing at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage brings all of the issue in play into sharp focus.
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We meet a trio of people in an unnamed country that has just emerged from a long dictatorship. Fifteen years before, Paulina had been kidnapped, tortured, and raped by the secret police. The effects still linger. In the first scene, she pulls a gun out of a desk drawer and waits with the lights off when a strange car approaches an isolated beach house.
It turns out to be her husband, Gerardo, who had a flat tire on the way back from the capitol. He's a high-powered lawyer who has just been put on a commission assigned to look at the war crimes of the past regime.
Paulina thinks she recognizes the voice of Gerardo's savior. It sounds like the doctor who was part of the team who tortured and raped her years before. A chance return to the home by Roberto, the doctor, leads to imprisonment for him, and an impromptu trial from Paulina.
Nothing is simple in Dorfman's play, which swirls around issues of revenge, justice, politics, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The intense material could easily lead to overacting from the company, but this trio of vets keeps it tamped down to aid in the tension, and to give the issues at play some room to breathe.
Is Craig Johnson's Roberto the monster Stacia Rice's Paulina thinks he is? Both actors add enough doubt to their performances to have us believe that either of them is telling the truth. Peter Christian Hansen's Gerardo sits in the middle, trying to aid his wife, but always having an eye on his career.
IF YOU GO:
Death and the Maiden Through Feb. 21 Minneapolis Theatre Garage 711 W. Franklin Ave., MInneapolis $8-$30 For tickets and more information, visit online.