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THEATER REVIEW : Balanced, Solid Version of Pavlovsky's 'Sen~or Galindez'

November 02, 1995|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Some individuals are better off repressing their inner child. From boyhood bullies, adult killers can grow. It's a progression that Argentine playwright Eduardo Pavlovsky understands very well, and one that he brings to vivid life in "Sen~or Galindez," now at Stages.

Not only is Pavlovsky a playwright, he is also a practicing psychiatrist and an actor. As a psychiatrist, Pavlovsky laces his oblique dramas with rich psychological subtexts. As an actor, he recognizes the importance of flowing, user-friendly dialogue. And as an Argentine, a citizen of a country where, in recent decades, the tango dancer and the torturer have held equal sway, he appreciates dichotomy.

So does Paul Verdier, the play's adapter and director as well as the artistic director at Stages, where he has presented Pavlovsky's work since 1987. Verdier never overbalances Pavlovsky's innate duality, in which the sensual and the brutal are separated only by a razor's edge. First produced in 1973, "Galindez" is a seminal play that sets the stage for the implicit violence of Pavlovsky's later dramas.

Despite all the foreshadowing in this non-linear narrative, the violence in "Galindez" still manages to ambush you. The protagonists Beto (Tony Maggio) and Pepe (Ken Hanes) are highly trained members of a mysterious profession that remains undisclosed until the end. Beto, cerebral family man, studies accounting in his spare time. Pepe, volatile exercise addict, beats up his girlfriend for sexual kicks.

For all their differences, the two are almost halves of the same self, mindlessly devoted to their jobs and to the unseen, all-powerful Sen~or Galindez, who gives them their cryptic "assignments" over the phone. However, the mysterious death of an associate has Beto and Pepe wondering if their benefit package also features a surprise early retirement.

*

Stylized to the point of caricature, Pepe and Beto come across more as mischievous schoolyard bullies than unspeakable monsters. It's a daring and astute contrast on the part of Verdier, and Maggio and Hanes make the most of it.

Doom may lurk in every dark corner of Pavlovsky's expressionistic play, but the proceedings are not inexorably grim. Verdier injects a subtle humor at every opportunity. Especially funny is Sheelagh Cullen as Sara, a prim housemother who is surprisingly frank about bodily functions--including dying. Our amusement congeals into horror when we realize just what these folks do for a living.

Anyway you slice this eviscerating drama, the message is disturbing. In Pavlovsky's diseased cosmology, paranoia, brutality and institutionalized evil become as matter-of-fact as a walk to the corner butcher's shop. Sadly, it's a message that can be applied, all too often, in the real world as well.

* "Sen~or Galindez," Stages, 1540 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Dec. 9. $18. (213) 465-1010. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

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