×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Widows

It's hard to put your finger on what is so grotesque about Ariel Dorfman's "Widows" until near the end of the play, when a child is executed. At that point, it becomes much easier to snap out of the trance state an evening at the theater sometimes induces and realize you are, in fact, being jerked around by someone more interested in inflaming passions than in making theater. "Care!" Dorfman seems to scream, and, as a consequence, we don't.

With:
The Doctor, Father Gabriel, Kastoria's Brother - Josh Alexander The Captain - Mark Aldaheff Cecilia Sanjines - Veronica Cruz Soldier - Sam Dingman Alexandra Fuentes . Sarah Nina Hayon Teresa - Mercedes Herrero The Lieutenant - Guiesseppe Jones Fidelia Fuentes - Ana Cruz Kayne Soldier - Ephraim Lopez Beatrice, Rosa - Melissa Miller Alexis Fuentes - Sean J. Moran Katherina - Gita Reddy Philip Kastoria, Alonso Fuentes - James Saba Mariluz - Anca Suiu Emmanuel - Joaquin Torres Sofia Fuentes - Ching Valdes-Aran Yanina Fuentes - Audrey Lynn Weston Ramona - Yan Xi

It’s hard to put your finger on what is so grotesque about Ariel Dorfman’s “Widows” until near the end of the play, when a child is executed. At that point, it becomes much easier to snap out of the trance state an evening at the theater sometimes induces and realize you are, in fact, being jerked around by someone more interested in inflaming passions than in making theater. “Care!” Dorfman seems to scream, and, as a consequence, we don’t.

It’s awkward to have to say this, because the play’s heavy-handed politics are unassailable. Dorfman, a Chilean playwright and novelist best known for “Death and the Maiden,” who was exiled during the Pinochet regime, wants to tell the world about los desaparecidos — “the disappeared” people who voiced opposition to tyranny and were then spirited away, probably to torture and death.

This practice has been reported on and lamented in totalitarian regimes all over the globe, so Dorfman strives for universalism with “Widows,” never naming the country or village in which he sets his story (the playwright based the play on his own novel, which takes place in Greece).

In its early moments, “Widows” recalls “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” or “Man Equals Man,” and you can’t help but hope Dorfman is going to use the precise tools that Brecht, another writer who wanted to change things, fashioned and demonstrated more than half a century ago. But when laughingly innocent children cavort through the first scenes in Dorfman’s play to the dulcet tones of an acoustic guitar, not all bodes well for subtlety.

As “Widows” opens, the leathery Sofia Fuentes (Ching Valdes-Aran) sits by the river with the other women of the village, spouting oracular wisdom and waiting for the men (father, husband, sons) who have been taken from her. Everyone, it turns out, has lost somebody, but Sofia is most thoroughly destroyed by her deprivation, and when a corpse floats down the river, she immediately claims it as her own.

Director Hal Brooks has some cool-looking stagecraft up his sleeve, and the magical-seeming presence of the dead, desecrated body is certainly a shock to the system and a great atmospheric tool. But after the corpse is taken away by the Captain (Mark Aldaheff, trying his hardest), it becomes clear Brooks can formulate the ideas, but he can’t actually fit them together into a plan of attack.

Other snippets of the play are successful — some wonderfully so, as when every woman in town comes to claim an unidentified body by breaking bread over it. But they stay weighed down by the logistical weirdnesses of Wilson Chin’s convoluted set and a general malaise about the direction in which the depressing plot is headed.

Most of the play, though, is torpedoed not by Brooks but by Dorfman, who, along with writing some of the least speakable lines in recent memory, is set on grinding into us the understanding that totalitarianism is Bad, that it is carried out by Bad People, and that anyone who consorts with those people becomes Bad by default.

Perhaps it’s not easy to write about murderers and torturers with any degree of nuance, but if anyone can do it, that person should be Dorfman. Maybe next time, he’ll give it a shot.

Popular on Variety

Widows

59E59 Theater B; 68 seats; $20 top

Production: A Reverie Prods. presentation of a play in two acts by Ariel Dorfman, adapted from his novel. Directed by Hal Brooks.

Creative: Set, Wilson Chin; costumes, Kimberly Glennon; lighting, Colin D. Young; sound, Matt O'Hare; production stage manager, Samone B. Weissman. Opened Jan. 18, 2008. Reviewed Jan. 20. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast: The Doctor, Father Gabriel, Kastoria's Brother - Josh Alexander The Captain - Mark Aldaheff Cecilia Sanjines - Veronica Cruz Soldier - Sam Dingman Alexandra Fuentes . Sarah Nina Hayon Teresa - Mercedes Herrero The Lieutenant - Guiesseppe Jones Fidelia Fuentes - Ana Cruz Kayne Soldier - Ephraim Lopez Beatrice, Rosa - Melissa Miller Alexis Fuentes - Sean J. Moran Katherina - Gita Reddy Philip Kastoria, Alonso Fuentes - James Saba Mariluz - Anca Suiu Emmanuel - Joaquin Torres Sofia Fuentes - Ching Valdes-Aran Yanina Fuentes - Audrey Lynn Weston Ramona - Yan Xi

More Legit

  • The Lightning Thief review musical

    Broadway Review: 'The Lightning Thief,' The Musical

    “It’s a lot to take in right now,” says Percy Jackson, the teen hero of “The Lightning Thief,” the kid-centric fantasy musical (based on the popular Y.A. novel) that’s now on Broadway after touring the country and playing an Off Broadway run. You could say that’s a bit of an understatement from contemporary teen Percy [...]

  • The Rose Tattoo review

    Broadway Review: 'The Rose Tattoo' Starring Marisa Tomei

    “The Rose Tattoo” is what happens when a poet writes a comedy — something strange, but kind of lovely. The same might be said of director Trip Cullman’s production: Strange, if not exactly lovely. Even Marisa Tomei, so physically delicate and expressively refined, seems an odd choice to play the lusty and passionate protagonist, Serafina [...]

  • Obit-Roy-B

    Former NATO President Roy B. White Dies at 93

    Roy B. White, former president and chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, died of natural causes Oct. 11 in Naples, Fla. He was 93. White ran the 100-screen independent theater circuit, Mid–States Theaters Inc. In addition to his career, he did extensive work on behalf of charities and non-profits. He was vice president [...]

  • Soft Power review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Soft Power'

    The “culture-clash musical” is a familiar template, in which a white American protagonist — waving the flag of individuality, optimism and freedom — trumps and tramps over the complexities of that which is foreign, challenging or “other.” David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s “Soft Power,” the new “play with a musical” at Off Broadway’s Public [...]

  • Jagged Little Pill Business of Broadway

    Listen: How 'Jagged Little Pill' Will Rock Broadway

    “Jagged Little Pill” wasn’t originally written with Broadway in mind — but the songs on Alanis Morissette’s smash-hit 1995 album do exactly what good musical theater songs should do, according to the upcoming show’s creators and producers. Listen to this week’s podcast below: The team explained why on Variety‘s theater podcast, “Stagecraft,” in an episode [...]

  • Stephen Moore

    Stephen Moore, 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' Android, 'Doctor Who' Actor, Dies at 81

    Stephen Moore, best known for his roles as the paranoid android Marvin in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” radio series and the Silurian Eldane in “Doctor Who,” has died. He was 81. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” producer Dirk Maggs confirmed Moore’s death Saturday on Twitter, writing, “Our dear friend Stephen Moore has [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content