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Criminal

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Presented as part of The Fourth Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival at Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, 312 W. 36 St., NYC, July 16-Aug. 2.

The fact that "Criminal: A Short Tragedy About a Counter-Transferential Transference" is more comic than tragic is just the first of many surprises that playwright Javier Daulte springs on unsuspecting viewers. In its English language premiere, with a translation by Rodrigo Cameron, this story about two psychoanalysts and their patients is a crafty and perceptive exploration of the lengths people will go to get what they want. This Juggernaut Theatre Co. co-production is guaranteed to get everyone thinking.

In an Argentinean doctor's office, a younger man is frantically trying to warn the good doctor that one of his patients is considering desperate measures. How he knows this information is because the young man himself is a psychoanalyst, and the patient he speaks of is married to his client. But soon it is apparent that he has his own motives for interfering in the lives of his patients. Little does he realize that he's not the only one with ulterior motives.

Daulte has set in motion a series of deceptive twists and turns that are designed to catch both the characters and the viewers off guard. Through his translation, Cameron has mingled mischief and menace in each sequence. Directed with sinuous staging by Gwynn MacDonald, the play weaves its way to a startling conclusion, aided by the industrious lighting of Jonathon Fuchs.

The cast is ideal, with each actor carrying out his or her part of the plot to perfection. Ralph Pochoda handles the role of the older analyst with authoritative indignation. As the patients, Pablo Ribot is intense as the conflicted husband, while Nicole Halmos maintains a caustic casualness that provides much of the humor in the piece. As the distraught younger doctor, translator Cameron becomes the emotional conduit through which audience members are transported into the middle of this mind-blowing mêlée.

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