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Review: Death and the Maiden

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3.5 stars

The Theater Within; directed by Rod Isaac. A sadistic doctor claims he administered "mercy" for a South American dictator by keeping political prisoners alive — on the brink of death by torture, but alive. Years after the bloody regime falls, coincidence brings him to the country home of one of his victims. Blindfolded in captivity, Paulina has never seen her captor, but she recognizes his voice and proceeds to hold him at gunpoint. Here, we are meant to ask ourselves: How can she be sure she has the right man? Will she extract vengeance or must she show mercy? These are the major, complex moral issues of Ariel Dorfman's 1990 play, but they never fascinated me as much as the play's sub-theme, the more subtle captivity of the marriage partnership. Although actor John D. Carver (Never the Sinner) has stage presence to spare, he and actress Irene Bublik never spark as former captor and victim. (Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver star in the movie version.) Bublik points her character's seething angst more effectively at husband Gerardo, played with wooden stoicism by Rann DeStefano. More interesting questions arise from their exchanges: Does he blame her for her continuing emotional breakdowns? Does she resent him, because he failed to rescue her all those years ago or because she's stuck playing second-mate to his career? In the end, husband and wife seem more trapped than the man strapped in their living room. Through Nov. 20; 850-4665, www.thechurchwithin.org.

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