Reviewed by Robin Breon
Interesting how Chile, that little sliver of a country in the south of Latin America, has touched the heart and popular culture of North Americans over the years. There was Ariel Dorfman's 1992 play, Death and the Maiden, that ran for several months on Broadway with Glenn Close, Richard Drefuss and Gene Hackman in the title roles. Close won a Tony Award for her performance of a woman who lived to confront the man that was her torturer. Then there was the public spectacle of General Augusto Pinochet's arrest in London in 1998 on charges of human rights violations on a massive scale stemming from his role in the 1973 coup that overthrew the democratically elected socialist president, Dr. Salvadore Allende. And earlier this month, the world witnessed the election of Chile's first woman president, Michele Batchelet, a physician (like Allende) and a feminist agnostic who was also a victim of torture under the Pinochet regime.
The Chilean diaspora in exile has cut a wide swath over the years and so is it any wonder that the next generation would find compelling material in the events that transpired over thirty years ago. Twenty-seven year old Rosa Laborde grew up in Toronto after her mother fled Chile after the coup. She is a graduate of the Oxford School of Drama and the world premiere of her new play has placed her firmly on the theatrical landscape in Canada.
Leo is the story of three young people who grow up in the enthusiasm and hope born of the Popular Unity government under Allende only to see it smashed by the fascist coup. The play's libratory sensibility is both political and sexual as the three young people discover themselves and mature in their bodies as well as their minds.
Salvatore Antonio, Sergio Di Zio, and Cara Pifko are a deeply reflective menage a trois of the times constantly balancing their ideals with their libidos. The playwright gives them all much to do and say in a way that can only be expressed through the passion of youth. Director Richard Rose chose to champion this script and found himself with an immediate hit on his hands. Although the production closed in Toronto recently, it will be back by popular demand as part of Tarragon's 2006-2007 season.