BY SANDY STAGGS
You’ve seen him as Officer Lockstock in “Urinetown: The Musical” at The Warehouse Theatre and at Centre Stage in “A Time to Kill” and “The Explorer’s Club.”
But now the first time since re-locating to Greenville in 2014, the actor Aaron Brakefield is in the director’s chair for Centre Stage’s final Fringe Series play of the season, “Death and the Maiden.”
“Acting is not everything,” said Brakefield, who is still in his youthful 30’s. “I have already moved to playing Dads and character roles. You can’t play the young ingénue forever.”
But playing a dad is also a role he has gleefully taken up at home as he and his wife, the magnificent actress Miranda Barnett, whom he met during their studies at UNC-Greensboro, raise their nearly six-month-old son Wilkes.
The duo also appeared together in “A Flea in Her Ear” at Centre Stage in 2014, but Brakefield said he has always had the “desire and capacity to direct.”
And for his Greenville directorial debut, Brakefield has chosen a wallop of a drama.
“Death and the Maiden,” the Olivier-winning play by Ariel Dorfman is set in an unnamed country that is, like the author’s native Chile, emerging from a totalitarian dictatorship.
A visit by good Samaritan Dr. Roberto Miranda (played by Michael Hart) to the home of Gerardo and Pauline Escobar (Dave LaPage and Beth Martin) escalates into a white-knuckled intellectual and emotional tug of war as Paulina takes the doctor hostage, convinced he was the man who tortured and raped her while she was imprisoned under the previous regime.
And the stakes of it are very high, Brakefield said. “The husband has just been promoted to second in command and is the youngest guy ever to fill that position. He has also been appointed to the commission that will investigate the rapes and tortures during the regime.”
“it’s pretty heavy material,” Brakefield conceded. “The subject matter is very real stuff that happens. It’s about imprisonment, rape and torture and this lady takes who she thinks is her ‘imprisoner’ hostage at gunpoint.”
“They’re all on very different trajectories,” he said. “The doctor is fighting for his life and she is fighting for her life back. And the husband, who doesn’t know what to believe, mediates the two.”
The play, made into a 1995 film directed by Roman Polanski and starring Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley, is known for its meaty roles and intense monologues and heavy-duty speeches.
“It explores right and wrong,” Brakefield said. “The script really makes us look back on ourselves and ask, ‘Am I an opportunist? What holes is my life need filled? What do I need to feel successful?’ ”
And the author of “Death and the Maiden” has purposefully left the work “open to interpretation,” leaving viewers to wonder if she is just paranoid or a schizophrenic?” Brakefield added.
“I would say it’s a fun show, but I would be lying,” he said. “However, it will bring about questions for the audience. It’s very cerebral.”
Brakefield does caution that this play is Rated R because of the subject matter.
This production also features Robert Fuson as Stage Manager and will presented on the set of Centre Stage’s MainStage production of the Pulitzer-Prize winning play “Intimate Apparel” opening June. 15.
Centre Stage will be partnering with SC Hispanic Alliance during this production.
“Death and the Maiden” runs at 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, June 20-21 and 27-28 at Centre Stage, 501 River St. in Greenville. Tickets are $15 and $10. Call (864) 233-6733 or visit http://www.centrestage.org.