Ariel Dorfman

‘Death and the Maiden’ review: a history of violence

Bag & Baggage's production of Ariel Dorfman's play about confronting the consequences of repression makes more persuasive political analysis than drama

A man bound and gagged. A woman pointing a gun at him. Confess his crime against her, or else.

You can’t ask for a much tenser set up than that. Death and the Maiden keeps the audience wondering throughout: did he do it, and will she do it? One of those questions will be resolved before the show is over.

But although they drive the plot, those aren’t the main questions raised by Ariel Dorfman’s provocative 1990 play now running at The Vault Theatre in Hillsboro. How do people, and by extension society, heal from past violence? Is confession enough? Or confession plus repentance? How about vengeance? Or should we just leave the past buried and move on?

Mandana Khoshnevisan as Paulina and Anthony Green as Roberto in Bag & Baggage Productions’ ‘Death and the Maiden.’ Photo: Casey Campbell Photography.

Dorfman’s play purports to dramatize this recurring conundrum by reducing it to three characters: A vengeful victim, blindfolded, tortured and raped years before by minions of a now-deposed military dictatorship. Her maybe-victimizer, whose voice resembles that of the man who, during the depths of the repression, tortured her to the recorded strains of a string quartet.  Her husband, who happens to be involved in the country’s efforts to confront its repressive past.

But even as the plot, and the ethical arguments, unfold, Dorfman’s script, and this production, leave those characters pretty much where they started. While Death and the Maiden poses some still-urgent questions, here it dutifully proceeds more like a combination formula thriller and a detached classroom ethics debate than an emotionally gripping character drama.

Continues…

Death and the Maiden: still true

Preview: Ariel Dorfman's relentless 1990 play about the aftermath of torture and political repression gets another look from Bag&Baggage

By MICHAEL SPROLES

It’s been nearly 30 years since the Argentinian-Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman wrote his groundbreaking political masterpiece, Death and the Maiden. But there are always lessons to be learned from history, and many of the themes and warnings in the work continue to ring true today.

The 1990 play focuses on the story of Paulina Salas, a former political prisoner in an unnamed country emerging from a totalitarian dictatorship. When she comes face to face with the man she believes was her captor, accusations of complicity, collusion, and guilt complicate one basic question – is she telling the truth?

And after a long wait, it’s opening Friday night in Hillsboro, with a pay-what-you-will preview on Thursday. Bag&Baggage’s founding artistic director, Scott Palmer, and associate artistic director, Cassie Greer, spoke for five years about putting on the production in Hillsboro. With a strong historical basis, a determined female protagonist, and a relevant political message, the play seems to fit the mold of what their professional resident theater company puts forth often – provocative and intense performances that challenge audiences. This also marks Greer’s first time solo directing a B&B production.

Mandana Khoshnevisan as Paulina and Nathan Dunkin as Gerardo. Casey Campbell Photography

“This is a story that is incredibly timely; it deals with social justice,” she said. “However, at the same time, there are no easy answers. We’re having the story told in a way that blurs all of the lines.”

Continues…