Ryan Findley

Purgatorio at Next Act Theatre

By - Jan 30th, 2010 01:54 pm

Human nature being what it is and each of us being who we are, is it possible for any of us to forgive? Is it possible for us to purge our souls of the things we have done? Can we excise the demons that haunt us and move on, cleansed and new and ready for a fresh life? These are the central questions of Purgatorio by Ariel Dorfman, staged by Next Act Theatre.


David Cecsarini and Anglea Iannone in Ariel Dorfman’s Purgatorio.

On a spartan stage, two people wrestle with their lives. Each of has done terrible, unforgivable things, to each other and to those around them. The story of their lives spirals closer to the truth on each pass. The forgiveness each needs the most is from the other, but the required sifting through the wrongs, lies and wounds is a herculean task. Before the purge can begin, one particular truth must fully realized and accepted. Dorfman’s Man and Woman spend 90 minutes in Purgatorio reaching this starting point.

Dorfman dangles redemption as a possibility amid considerations into the nature of time, the nature of love and the nature of identity. Purgatorio is a densely packed philosophical journey, but you don’t realize that until the play’s over. Mary McDonald Kerr’s direction thrusts the emotion of these two people, of any two people seeking to move beyond the past, to the front. Anyone can find a piece of their own history in the story of how these two people met, loved, and broke apart.

Purgatorio4Angela Iannone is the lively, manipulative Woman. She is enraged at what has been done to her and at  what she has done, but she does not back down from her actions.  She might need to beg for forgiveness in order to heal, but she cannot do it without giving up that which makes her who she is. She is tempestuous, she is wild, she is playful, a force to be reckoned, but perhaps flat and brittle. Despite her genuine remorse, she will retreat to absolutes when backed into a corner. Iannone understands this dynamic perfectly.

David Cecsarini’s Man is far more flexible and willing to play the angles. He is more willing — or perhaps more able, because of his make-up — to accept his need for Woman’s forgiveness. His failing is arrogance, which Cecsarini displays at just the right moments, just before Man covers himself in a faux humility or loses himself in an honest desire to do good for someone. Dorfman’s Man is more nuanced than Woman, and he has more of a history, and Cecsarini plays that nuance effectively.

Is forgiveness possible? Purgatorio leaves that question unanswered. But it shows how we might begin to go about asking for it and giving it.

Purgatorio runs at Next Act Theatre through February 21 at the Off-Broadway Theater, 342 N. Water St. Tickets are $24-$32, depending on performance date and time. Visit Next Act or call 414-278-0765  for tickets and more information.

Categories: Theater

0 thoughts on “Review: Purgatorio at Next Act Theatre”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Immensely powerful, overwhelmingly moving; SO well acted by both performers. Amazing, how the play can reach back into mythology and make Jason and Medea live for all of us. I will say that knowing their story FIRST, helps to tie everything together, however. Also — Dorfman’s idea of “Purgatory” is interesting, challenging, and, surprisingly, timely. Loved it.

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