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A CurtainUp Review
The state's higher ups are represented by two hooded men -- one a farmer, the other a mere boy, an underprivileged city kid trying to get together some money to help his impoverished mother. The hostages are a crafty octogenarian who's apparently been held captive in a Safe House for some time, pending her son's coming forward with ransom money, and a young journalist snatched from a car just before seeing her doctor for her six-month pregnancy checkup.
Mr. Cortiñas has spiced his tale of the women's horrendous dilemma and their captors' fuzzy commitment to their dictatorial superiors with a dose of magic realism The problem is that the play's realistic elements are almost more fantastic than the more surreal story telling. Whether in the straightforward present or in a sort of dream in which the whole cast participates, there are no real edge of the seat moments; nor are the ideas put forth especially fresh. In the final analysis Cortiñas' blend of realistic and imagined events loses out to the greater drama of our current reality and Tight Embrace often feels like a replay of other, more engrossing hostage and political prisoner plays. Lee Blessing's Two Rooms comes to mind, as do the musical and non-musical versions of The Kiss of the Spider Woman.
The production has an excellent director in Lisa Peterson who keeps events flowing smoothly. There are also two fine actresses on hand to play the hostages, Mia Katigbak as Adalina, the old lady, and Zabryna Guevara, as Claudia. Katigbak has the meatier and more tragic role, feeding us bits and pieces of her misguided tough love which turned her son into a military man who is apparently willing to abandon his mother rather than pay the ransom that would free her. Adalina's efforts to help the romantically inexperienced young guard woo a young woman he fancies are initially amusing but soon wear thin. So does the stage business about the umbrella she clings to because gives her a sense of having a roof over her head.
Zabryna Guevara, who was the linchpin character in Intar's terrific The Cook a few seasons ago, doesn't have much to work with here. The play does create a measure of suspense as to where this keystone cop terrorist operation will take us by the time Claudia's baby is due to be born, but somehow you're never fully caught up in the dark and dangerous situation, nor do the characters, even the hostages, stir any deep-felt emotion.
The production values are simple but effective, as is typical of this company which has done some splendid work. Moving their productions to the convenient Theatre Row location is sure to acquaint more people with what Intar does. This season that will include a New Works Lab from December 19 to Januarry 22nd, and two new plays: Points of Departure by Michael John Garces from March 7th to April 16th about indigenous Central Americans who at different points to and from America face their government's refusal to leth them speak their native tong; Windows by Sylvia Bofill from May 2nd to June 11th about three generations of Puerto Rican women.
Leonard Maltin's 2006 Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
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