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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 12 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 37
Death and the Maiden - Paulina's got a gun: Latino Theatre Projects serves up revenge taut and cold
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Death and the Maiden - Paulina's got a gun: Latino Theatre Projects serves up revenge taut and cold

by Doug Hamilton - SGN Contributing Writer

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN
LATINO THEATRE PROJECTS
BALLARD UNDERGROUND
Through September 28


Who doesn't like to learn new things? Did you know, for instance, that sometimes the Metro #43 bus becomes the #44 and continues all the way from Capitol Hill to Ballard? Or the difference between micro-aggression and macro-aggression? Or that there was a 1973 Chilean coup d'├ętat? Or that, now and then, we all could use a staycation? To confirm these things, simply hop on the #43/44 bus (check with Metro for exact schedule) headed toward the Ballard Underground (2220 NW Market St.) on any Friday or Saturday evening (8 p.m. curtain) or Sunday afternoon (2 p.m. curtain) between now and September 28 and see Latino Theatre Projects' production of Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden. (Tickets are $15.48 in advance at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/816166. www.latinotheatreprojects.org. For a preview of the play, see SGN's 8/8/14 edition.)

This taut little two-act psychodrama, skillfully casts Tonya Andrews as the quirky tragedienne, Paulina Salas Escobar. Directed by Emma Watt, the play reminds us live theater can offer us a temporary escape like no other, sort of like taking the bus back to the '50s 'Twilight Zone.'

There is more than a bit of intentional noir to the grayed out set design which depicts a Chilean beach house in 1988. Only rare spots of vibrant color are used - here, in the colorful native woven textiles used for the cushions on a rattan settee, or there, in a bit of red Fiestaware. But overall the stage is muted. A gray sheer curtain provides a backdrop, separating the sitting room from the outside patio. Its translucence adds to the murkiness. The lighting always seems dimmed whether depicting night or day. The simple tropical furnishing of the set (with the exception of the tell-tale cassette player/recorder) could be from anytime in the last 80 years, a knack 80s noir learned from film noir.



This play makes me wish its playwright, Ariel Dorfman, could do a treatment of the recent headline drama encircling airline seats reclining into rear passenger's legs. Oh, the social injustice of it all! Let's divert the airplane! At the center of this new airplane drama, would be the reprised character of Paulina, wife to dignitary Geraldo Escobar. She is just batshit crazy enough to pull off a stunt like that. One can only imagine this Paulina socking it to the airline authorities. 'Was that extra tiny bit of personal real estate worth the cost of grounding this airplane? Was it really, now?'

Fans of Post-Modern Feminist Snarkyism will love Paulina. She evokes inappropriate smirks at the most awkward of times. Actress Tonya Andrews in this role reminds me of 'Saturday Night Live' alum Molly Shannon. Which is funny in its own way, because the context of the play is quite serious. Not funny at all.



Micro-aggressions are those little things that rub us the wrong way. They may seem funny, or small to the outsider, but to the victim they are not. The guy who reclines his seat back with no consideration. People who use demeaning nicknames. The new acquaintance who never called. The mindless reinforcement of racial or sexual stereotypes in off-hand remarks. Micro-aggressions produce resentments we add to our satchel of victimhood. We reach into this satchel to tell stories about ourselves, about what those sleights mean, about us and our place in the world.

And macro-aggressions? Those definitely are not funny at all. Macro-aggressions include acts of war, such as murder, rape, torture, and kidnapping. In the wake of the 1973 coup d'├ętat in Chile, a police and military junta rounded up potential political dissenters by the thousands, and routinely practiced sadistic acts on them designed to humiliate and break their spirit. Paulina was a victim of their atrocities.



Paulina does not carry just a small personal satchel in which to store her resentments. No, Paulina drags an entire set of PTSD designer luggage behind her. Now, in 1988, her husband Geraldo has been appointed by the Chilean President to head a truth-seeking commission to investigate the unsolved deaths of the previous police state. His job is to get to the truth for the benefit of the survivors, so they might have closure and move on.

The few incursions to the relative isolation of the Escobar beach house are the occasional sounds of a wave beating on the ocean shore, or the similar sound of a car pulling into the driveway. The headlights from the car are the only bright flashes to illuminate the interior of this bungalow. The headlights and gentle automobile rumbling announce the arrival of Geraldo, who is late due to a flat tire, and one hour later, the arrival of Dr. Roberto Miranda, who had rescued Geraldo on the roadway, and now returns well past midnight to offer further assistance.

Something, either paranoiac delusion or a sharp whiff of reality, not to mention the discovery of a cassette tape of Schubert symphonies in Dr. Miranda's car, convinces Paulina that Dr. Miranda is her past rapist and torturer. Problem is, she cannot be certain since she was blindfolded and beneath a hood the whole time of her ordeal, listening to Schubert.

Geraldo Escobar, Paulina's husband, who is played by Frank Lawler, is that well-meaning voice of reason, that wooly-haired professor or executive with the Doctorate who rises through the ranks by never offending the wrong person. Paulina tells him, 'You are the kind of guy who thinks you are smarter than everybody else. That you have to solve other people's problems for them.' Lawler steps into the skin of his character, providing the needed foil for the volatile Paulina. To him, the tape of Schubert is just a coincidence.

Fernando Luna's portrayal of Dr. Roberto Miranda is rich and multidimensional. When Paulina snaps, and ties him to a chair to hold him at gunpoint for the next 24 hour (95% of the play), he seems perpetually about to pee himself. We watch this big lug's machismo melt as Paulina unpacks her psychological luggage on him, extracting her version of social revenge from behind a loaded gun. Broomsticks are mentioned. (Smirk). Leave kids of a tender age at home unless you want a whole lot of explaining to do.

Seriously pissed off Paulina, at the Chilean beach house, with the revolver. Was Dr. Miranda's confession forced or real? Now there's a staycation that will leave you reeling. 'Just shut up and take it,' as Paulina might say.

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