Ariel Dorfmans political/philosophical melodrama centers on Paulina (Hungarian actress Enci), who was tortured and raped while a prisoner of her countrys dictatorship. Now, the dictator has been overthrown, and Paulinas husband, Gerard (Eric Curtis Johnson), is investigating the crimes of the former regime. But when Dr. Robert Miranda (Benton Jennings) comes to their beach house to visit Gerard, Paulina believes he is the sadistic doctor who once tortured her. While Gerard sleeps, she takes the doctor prisoner, binding and gagging him. What follows is a three-way battle: Paulina is intent on extracting a confession from Miranda and wreaking vengeance, while Gerard opposes vigilante justice, urging her to let the democratic process and the forces of law prevail. Miranda seeks only to preserve his life and escape. Enci provides a strong and eloquent performance, but Dorfmans carefully contrived play requires a seamless production to be credible, and director Dado is not entirely successful in providing one. Neither Gerard nor Miranda seems strong enough to be serious contenders against Paulina, and a longish scene played out in near-total darkness produced more giggles than dramatic tension. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, Burbank; Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., through Dec. 21. (800) 838-3006 or www.SkyPilotTheatre.com.
Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 1. Continues through Dec. 21, 2008