“Death and the Maiden” is a daring choice for Duke City Repertory Theatre’s sixth season launch. The much loved company opens with this 1990s contemplative drama on The Cell Theatre’s alternative boxcar stage. Director Katie Becker Colón takes a sensible approach to Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman’s disconcerting material, allowing for maximum awareness of the gripping dialog among the story’s three principals.
Amelia Ampuero stars as Paulina Salas, a purposeful woman who hasn’t rationally recovered from kidnapping and sexual torture at the hands of a repressive regime 15 years ago. Fatefully, an opportunity appears for her to confront the ordeal and shake out the ghosts scurrying through her psyche. This is not a timid part and Ampuero admiringly arrives for the challenge. Maneuvering barefoot she opens her door of thought and experience, rolling out a moving grasp of this troubled being.
However, there is a lot more room afforded with the character that Ampuero doesn’t take. At times, it feels as though she is reluctant to step on the pedal. Perhaps this is due to her interpretation of Paulina as a victim who refuses to breakdown lest she show a vulnerability that could destroy her. But missing are the imperfections; those out-of-control moments that could punctuate Ampuero’s performance with deeper notes.