Playwright: Ariel Dorfman. At: Victory Gardens Theatre at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-871-3000; www.victorygardens.org; $40-$42 . Runs through: July 20
The allegorical theme often found in medieval art lending our play its title shares its cognomen with a string quartet by classical composer Franz Schubert, the latter a favorite of the "doctor" who assisted in rape and torture of political prisoners during a recent occupation by military insurgents. Fifteen years later, with democracy restored, Geraldo Escobar, newly appointed to serve on the committee investigating the previous regime's crimes-against-humanity, brings home a guest one eveningonly to see his wife succumb to long-buried memories triggered by the stranger's personal idiosyncrasies.
Audiences in 2014 are unlikely to dwell on Paulina Escobar's injuriesatrocities ( those safely perpetrated by foreign governments, anyway ) are fodder for dinner-table conversation nowadays. Nor are playgoers inclined to doubt that Roberto Miranda was the one who inflicted themwhat enlightened American would dispute a victim's account of her abuse? The questions of whether Paulina has earned the right to execute her tormentor and whether this circumvention of due legal process echoes the very injustices Geraldo's tribunal was created to address are, likewise, less important, twenty years after Ariel Dorfman first raised it, as that of just what can reunify a society whose citizens still fester under hostile mistrust of their neighbors.
This is why, despite a scenario proposing a ( perhaps ) innocent man held captive by a gun-brandishing PTSD-crazed avenging angel, it's a mistake to view this play as a standard-issue thrillerespecially since an epilogue suggests that its events may be occurring solely within Paulina's mind as she prepares to assume the role that her husband's office will demand of her. Director Chay Yew understands this, deliberately muting the text's sensational aspects to highlight the issues, public and domestic, relevant to deciding the outcome of the seemingly unresolvable stand-off.
He also understands that three people talking for 100 intermissionless minutes can swiftly grow visually and aurally fatiguing. William Boles' revolving beach house, allowing conversations to be conducted both indoors and out, introduces movement to the stage picture, as does Mikhail Fiksel's immersive soundscape, but it's the attention to subtext that Sandra Oh and John Judd exhibit that generates the necessary tension between Paulina and Roberto. ( Raul Castillo's Geraldo, except when the plot requires a show of anger, comes off as curiously apathetic, perhaps reflecting Paulina's subjective perception of her spouse. ) You mayor may notgo home contemplating the heavy burden of forging peace among the world's warring factions, but you won't find a more articulate presentation of the arguments than in this skillfully forged production.