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Monday, Jan. 25, 2010

Wait Is Over for ‘Purgatorio’ at Next Act Theatre

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In the years since it opened, the intimate stage of the Off-Broadway Theatre has served as countless locations. Now through the end of February, it transforms into a sort of afterlife in Next ActTheatre’s production of Ariel Dorfman’s Purgatorio. It’s a place the playwright envisions as “A white room. Austere. No decorations.” Staying true to the script, the Next Act production is very minimalist. Next Act Producing Artistic Director David Cecsarini, who designed the set, is also the sound designer. “Sound-wise, it'll be spare as well,” Cecsarini says. “I mean, what sounds do they have in Purgatory?”

In addition to creating the physical end of Purgatory, Cecsarini will also play one of its two inhabitants, a nameless man who is found interviewing a woman at the beginning of the story. Milwaukee theater icon Angela Iannone plays the woman. Joining Cecsarini and Iannone in the project is director Mary MacDonald Kerr. Kerr, Cecsarini and Iannone have worked together in a number of capacities over the years. The benefit of that experience between talented actors should help to craft a truly compelling drama.

“Those two ladies are smart and thorough,” Cecsarini says of his collaborators, “which certainly makes rehearsals interesting … Mary has an unrelenting ear for meaning, logic and clarity, which is absolutely necessary if we're going to tell a clear story driven almost entirely by words.”

In those words we find out about the characters. In keeping with the traditional idea of Purgatory, both man and woman must reach a state of contrition before they are allowed to leave the uncomfortably bare space and get on with the rest of their afterlives.

Dorfman has patterned the man and woman after Jason and Medea from the legends of ancient Greece. As the story is delivered in part from the woman’s dialogue, we see her perspective on the story. It’s a task that presents Iannone with interesting challenges. Medea murdered the two children she had with Jason. The woman in Dorfman’s script has to come to terms with multiple murders as well. Bringing that emotional reality to the stage is precisely the sort of thing Iannone has had such success with over the years. Based on Iannone’s talent and the presence of an equally talented Cecsarini, Next Act will be presenting a very dynamic Purgatory.

Next Act’s Purgatorio runs through Feb. 21 at the Off-Broadway Theatre.

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