Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hauntingly Lovely WIDOWS by Ariel Dorfman from Reverie Productions

I attended Reverie Production's benefit performance of Ariel Dorfman's Widows at the 59 E 59 last night. Reverie is presenting the New York premiere, which is pretty cool.

This is an interesting script that has had a longer than usual development cycle according to my web research (it started as a poem, became a novel, and has gone through several drafts as a play script, including one collaboration draft with Tony Kushner).

The story concerns the plight of a group of women in a small Chilean village. The village men have disappeared and are feared dead. The captain of the occupying army wrestles with the question of whether to deal ethically with the women's requests for news of their husbands or to surpress their potentially violent demands for justice ruthlessly. An elderly woman summons dead bodies of faceless men from the river and has her own internal struggles around the cost of staying silent in the face of injustice.

The play has the smooth, moral purity of Brecht's Mother Courage and the epic and poetic feel of Lorca's House of Bernarda Alba. I enjoyed it quite a bit. The lead performance by Ching Valdes-Aran as Sofia Fuentes has utterly magical. There are not many actresses around who could make Sofia's moral journey so profoundly moving and deeply stirring. On the surface, this is a bulldozer of a character who starts the play righteous and ends the play tragically righteous-- but Valdes-Aran showed me the personal cost and fear at every step of Sofia's crusade for closure. Actor Mark Alhadeff pulls off a similarly satisfying journey as The Captain, the military leader who honestly tries to salvage a bad situation for most of the play and then loses his soul to monstrous compromises and devious manipulations.

Due to the closeness of the room the benefit was held in, I got caught for a moment or two in a close three-person conversation with Ching Valdes-Aran and Ariel Dorfman! That is my celebrity encounter for the week or perhaps the year (decade?). I didn't contribute anything beyond some polite smiles and a muttered "lovely" while they asked each other how the process was going. Cool, cool, cool.

Also got to catch up with playwright Amlin Gray. He is starting up a Latin American Drama class at Sarah Lawrence this next semester (he teaches there) and was getting in some last minute research. He is delightfully nice.

Tonight I am going to see Young Jean Lee's Church at the Under the Radar Festival at The Public. And will round off the week with Chad Beckim's The Main(e) Play at Theater Row on Friday.


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