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Puzzling plot kidnaps play


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TIGHT EMBRACEKirk Theater, 410 W. 42nd St.; (212) 279-4200. Through Jan. 2.

THE political kidnap pings of helpless eld erly and pregnant women wouldn't seem your ideal concept for a romantic comedy, and "Tight Embrace" doesn't do anything to change your mind.

This bizarre new play by Jorge Ignacio Cortinas, now getting its world premiere by the Intar Theatre as part of its 40th anniversary season, squanders its potential with a quirkiness that quickly wears thin.

Set in a "safe house" in a vague Latin American country, the play spans several seasons and concerns two terrorists and their charges. The former are Zero (Robert Jimenez), a farmer who never removes his ski mask, and Barquin (Andrew Munar), a childlike young man. Their hostages are elderly grandmother Adalina (Mia Katigbak), forever twirling a symbolic umbrella, and Claudia (Zabryna Guevara), a journalist who is six months pregnant.

Adalina has clearly been kept captive for some time, apparently because her hard-nosed military son refuses to pay her ransom. When the naive Barquin becomes romantically interested in the new arrival, she tutors him on the best way in which to woo her. This forms the dramatic action, such as it is, of the play, which never strikes a cohesive tone or figures out what it wants to be. While the characterizations are well-drawn and the dialogue amusing at times, the overall preciousness is so at odds with the situation that the play is ultimately more bewildering than provocative.

Director Lisa Peterson doesn't bring much flair to the meandering proceedings, and as the scenes blend into one another, the audience increasingly gets to the share the feeling of being held prisoner for a very long stretch of time.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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