Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mosaic Theatre: Death and the Maiden (3 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden on March 9, 2012.
Set in an unnamed country that is, like the author's native Chile, emerging from a totalitarian dictatorship, the play explores the after-effects of repression on hearts and souls. This white knuckle thriller is a riveting intellectual and emotional tug of war.
Avi Hoffman directed a cast that featured Stephen G. Anthony, Laura Turnbull, and Oscar Cheda.

John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
...consider this review as both a recommendation to collaborative audiences and a warning to concrete thinkers: Death and the Maiden leaves much unexplained, and it's all the better for it.
South American playwright Ariel Dorfman wrote the play in 1990, just as Chile was wresting democracy away from a military dictatorship, but if Death and the Maiden shows us anything, it's the universality of tyranny: Replace Chile with Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, or any of the Arab Spring nations and you wouldn't have to change a word.
Eschewing the comedic personality for which he is most known as an actor, Avi Hoffman as director is bracing in his commitment to material that is as dark and sordid as an unmarked grave.
He guides his wife, Turnbull, toward another laudable performance. Her story of abuse is a microcosm for the rape and torture of an entire nation, and she takes it on with chilling alacrity, as believable when firing a gun as she is choking back a tear. Anthony is perfectly compelling in the unflashiest part, and Cheda, in his meatiest role in some time, performs with Machiavellian desperation, a conflicted poker face that gives away nothing until the very end.

Speaking of which — and this isn't a spoiler, because there's nothing to spoil — the end isn't so much an end but a new beginning or an alternate reality or something like that. The audience at the production I attended didn't know what to think or even when to clap. To Dorfman, Hoffman, and the cast, I can't think of a better compliment.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Death and the Maiden, which takes its title from a string quartet piece by Schubert that Paulina’s rapist played during her torture, is a taut psychological thriller, and Mosaic Theatre’s production is impressive.

Director Avi Hoffman keeps the pace brisk and the tension building.  Douglas Grinn once again creates a set which fits the play and has a few surprises.  Matt Corey’s soundscape, which include the soothing undulating ocean waves, enhances the juxtaposition of horror and serenity, as does the lighting design by Suzanne M. Jones. Her realization of each moment, from the bluish tones of moonlight and the sultry shadows cast by a waning ceiling fan, to the stark beachy daylight and evocative memory scene, is evocative and gorgeous.
The performances are compelling. Cheda is remarkable, veering from jovial affability to self-righteous indignation, then resignation and finally defiance, in less than 90 minutes. Anthony is terrific as a man caught in the middle of whether his moral obligation belongs to his wife or the legal system, and his performance illuminates Gerardo’s inner struggle, especially in his moment of epiphany.

Turnbull is marvelous. She imbues Paulina with a practicality one might not expect, outlining her intentions with the matter-of-factness of checking off a grocery list. She is often wistful, then angry, then sarcastic, and Turnbull colors every emotion with glee and heartbreak.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Newly revived at Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre, Death and the Maiden offers its three actors the chance to deliver psychologically rich performances designed to keep the audience off balance. Under Avi Hoffman’s direction, Mosaic’s cast – Laura Turnbull as a forever-traumatized torture victim, Stephen G. Anthony as her lawyer husband and Oscar Cheda as the doctor who may or may not have been the woman’s tormentor – make good on the script’s potential.
The acting, particularly the intense performance by Turnbull, is absorbing, even if none of the characters seem particularly of that time and place. Mosaic’s fine design team delivers a lovely beach house (Douglas Grinn), mood-shifting lighting (Suzanne M. Jones) and the sounds of the sea and of Paulina’s past torment (Matt Corey). But a final brief scene, designed to underscore that evil-among-us idea, is a hot mess in every way imaginable.
Death and the Maiden plays at Mosaic Theatre through April 1, 2012.

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