Monday, May 14, 2012

Cast Shines In Intense Drama

In a South American country where a brutal dictator as just been disposed, a lawyer brings home a Good Samaritan, who rescued him from car trouble.  Unbeknownst to the lawyer, the helpful man turns out to be the brutal captor, torturer and rapist of his wife.
Mark Staley, Ken Bolden, Adrienne Wehr
This is the basis for Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman, the current offering at Off The Wall Theater in Washington PA.
As you can imagine, this plot leads to an evening of intense, emotional drama.
And the strong cast is well up to the task.  Adrienne Wehr (as the wife), Mark Staley (as her husband) and Ken Bolden (as the sadistic torturer) wring the raw emotions from the script brilliantly.
Where the production seems to falter is with the direction.
Director Maggie Balsley had chosen to open the play with a video projection of the first scene between Wehr and Staley (all while the two actors move around the stage in a kind of “dumb show”).  I had no clue what it was supposed to mean. Consequently, I probably didn’t pay as close attention to the next few vignettes as I was trying to figure out the projection.
For a play that addresses such high-charged issues, there was a lot of sitting and talking.  Staley sits at a table talking to Bolden.  Then Staley goes to the balcony and sits and talks with Wehr.  Then Wehr comes in and sits at a table talking to Bolden.  Center stage got very little use.
What made matters worse is the balcony is far stage right behind a large sofa.  Very often all I could see of Wehr and Staley were their heads peeking over the top of the sofa.
Then the production ends with more baffling video (after a long pause for costume changes).
Designer Paul A. Shaw has once again transformed the small Off The Wall stage into a completely new look.  Unfortunately, Balsley groundplan does more harm then good.
But the cast preservers and doesn’t allow the odd videos or the stagnant blocking prevent them from delivering memorable performances.
Death and the Maiden continues through May 19.

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