Friday, September 20, 2013

Totalitarian Trauma | Review | Tucson Weekly

Totalitarian Trauma 

A dark drama at IT takes on sex, lies and government-speak

Anna, an editor at the Soviet-style Ministry of Information, is not one to complain and certainly not to the Director.
But the man has summoned her and is now standing much too close.
And if you must know, this new project might just be the death of her. Anna and her comrades, black markers in hand, are working like the devil cleaning up the personal letters of Russia's most famous composer.
Seems the late composer was a boisterous homosexual who liked putting pen to paper. He documented his sexual adventures at length and with explicit glee.
"It's pornography," Anna tells the Director, who clearly has a dirty mind of his own. The grim-faced worker, played by Lori Hunt, explains that the filth removal is proceeding as planned. But it's dawning on her that the Director (Roberto Guajardo) didn't call her to his office for a status report.
Something else is going on. But what?
That's the question at the heart of The Letters, a tense two-character drama that opened Invisible Theatre's 43rd season last week.
John W. Lowell's play was inspired by a biography of Tchaikovsky, whose personal papers were reportedly censored by the Soviets. The government was hellbent on scrubbing the gay away.
The play, which earned its first major production in 2009, was also inspired by the overheated reaction to Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky in the '90s.
Read the entire review here: 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Invisible Theatre’s 'The Letters' is a doubleplusgood drama

Power struggle play echoes Orwell's 1984

Dave Irwin

Better known for light comedy, Invisible Theatre opened its 43rd season with a taut psychological drama that owes much to “1984,” George Orwell’s dystopian novel, as well as to the Soviet era that provides the play’s setting.

The backdrop for “The Letters,” by John W. Lowell, is the Soviet Union of 1931, as Joseph Stalin was consolidating his dictatorship through fear and reprisals towards any and all opponents, actual or perceived. The play examines the issues of a culture built on fear and deception, through a two-person power struggle fraught with suspicion, manipulation and intrigue.

The cat and mouse game begins

Read the entire review here: Invisible Theatre’s 'The Letters' is a doubleplusgood drama

Lori Hunt and Roberto Guajardo in
Lori Hunt and Roberto Guajardo in 'The Letters.'
photo by Tim Fuller

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: "The Letters" at Invisible Theatre

September 14, 2013 12:00 am  •  

Surveillance, suspicion and misinformation evoked tension and paranoia during the Invisible Theatre’s opening Wednesday of its 43rd season with John W. Lowell’s 2009 “The Letters.”
A departure from the theater’s often-sentimental fare, “The Letters” is a two-actor, 80-minute quiet thriller of intrigue set in a ministry director’s office in the 1931 Soviet Union.
From the moment the lights go up on the monochromatic, sepia-toned office set — splashed with the bold red Soviet flag with its glinting gold hammer and sickle — a feeling of oppression percolates through the intimate theater. Portraits of Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin  seem to be watching every move.
Invisible Theatre's


Friday, September 13, 2013


Theatre - Let the Show Begin

Anna (Lori Hunt) keeps up her guard talking to The Director (Roberto Guajardo) in "The Letters"

The most fascinating aspect of Invisible Theatre’s production of “The Letters,” directed by Susan Claassen, is how two actors – Roberto Guajardo and Lori Hunt – can create such electrical tension on stage using only their words and their body language.
Without question, “The Letters” is the first must-see event of the new season. It is powerful the way sheer drama is powerful, drawing truth from taut conflicts between willful personalities.
Instead of threatening weaponry, massive explosives hooked up to a ticking timer, agitated suicide bombers or other such special effects, there is a desk and two chairs.
And talent…there is a lot of talent. Guajardo is The Director and we are in his office, with his title painted on the door. Hunt is simply called Anna, a subordinate. She seems to be a featureless cog in the bureaucratic Soviet machine of some equally faceless Russian city in 1931.
It doesn’t take a historian to know the communist party officials of that time kept tightening their hold on the country. Execution was an unspoken threat hovering over every conversation. Each day brought a new struggle against unknown enemies.
Yet, even in these conditions people still had to live, still had families to care for, still needed to find compelling reasons to keep going. No one was really far enough up the political ladder to feel absolutely safe.
The Director had to stay ahead of others competing for his job. Anna may have had an inferior position, but she wasn’t about to cave in.
All of this combative backstory is efficiently set up in the opening conversations between the two. Anna has been called into The Director’s office, but isn’t sure why. She looks for hidden agendas in The Director’s every word.
The Director, determined to defend himself from any threat in any direction, needs to find out everything he can from Anna without revealing any more than he must.
It is the shading of nuance as Guarjardo and Hunt tap dance around this Russian bear of uncaring menace that gives the performance its breath-squeezing grip.
Nothing quite like it has been seen on a Tucson stage in many years. In the real world, with a new revelation coming out every day that our own government has been secretly spying on all of us for years, “The Letters” is a reminder that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Performances continue through Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays (additional matinee 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept, 21) at Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.

Tickets are $28 general admission, discounts available. For details and reservations, 520-882-9721, or visit  


Friday, September 6, 2013

Invisible Theatre stages "The Letters"

September 05, 2013 12:00 am  •  By Chuck Graham Special To The Arizona Daily Star

“The Letters” lit up regional theaters across the nation, reminding audiences of uneasy reports about U.S. government programs to spy on its citizens. Tucson’s Invisible Theatre has scheduled its production of Lowell’s “The Letters” opening next week.

Read the entire preview here: Invisible Theatre stages "The Letters"