The Power (and Terror) of Words

Welcome to a world where nothing is as it appears. In Reader, acclaimed playwright Ariel Dorfman creates a layered allegory for a tyrannical government and the urgent cries of its citizens for liberation. Dorfman, a Chilean writing in exile, explores themes of sociopolitical crisis such as power, identity, willfulness and pain. Reader is a bold play that demands irreverent staging and rejects catharsis. For example, actors play multiple roles, characters exist in two worlds and time flashes backwards and forwards. The challenges posed by the play abound. The seven-year-old NY-based theater company One Year Lease (OYL) has dedicated its summer to producing all three of Dorfman’s Resistance Trilogy to which Reader belongs. Out of this text, director Ianthe Demos adeptly weaves together an intelligent and visceral production that bursts with vitality and terror. Reader is a deliciously tangled tale in which a literary censor finds his life story in a manuscript he is set to edit. The story of the manuscript is played out within the story of the play, which forces our main character into deep self-examination. Persistent ghosts haunt him, shaking his confidence and decomposing his veneer of togetherness before our eyes. The oppressor becomes the oppressed as he battles his conscience, attempts to conceal his secrets, hunts down the writer and, finally, overcomes his central fear to rebel against the system he once represented.

The performers offer rich, frenzied characterizations prickling with energy. Most notable are Darrell James, who plays the main characters Daniel Lucas and Don Alfonso Morales, and an electric Emma Jackson who plays Irene and Jacqueline. The set, costumes and lighting ground us in a noir space seething with intrigue, mystery and elegance.

Dorfman creates a world where tyranny smiles and violates. One Year Lease uses its dexterity to present a tension-filled and alluring imagining of this world. The themes of this play are deeply engaging and strike a cord of relevance to contemporary life without being overt or heavy-handed. Treat yourself to an evening of theater that is both contemplative and animal. See Reader.

Note: This production is a part of the 2007 NYC International Fringe Festival.

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