Three’s good company

Rosa Laborde's Léo plays with passion, politics and a troubling triangle

LEO by Rosa Laborde, directed by Richard Rose (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). To March 19. $24-$29, Sunday pwyc-$15. See Continuing for details. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNN

In mathematics, triangles are neatly shaped three-sided figures. We don’t pay attention to the fact that there’s a sharp point wherever two lines meet.

But in a three-sided relationship, those sharp edges can be a source of pain. That’s the case in Léo , an engaging play about three young people in 60s and 70s Chile.

In Rosa Laborde‘s moving script, the links among the friends begin solidly. Léo (Salvatore Antonio) is involved with the idealistic Rodrigo (Sergio Di Zio) and the quick-fingered Isolda (Cara Pifko), though there’s something unspoken that distances him from them.

Unsettling politics and erupting passions twist the fibre of their rapport further. The friends find their relationship transformed into variations of two plus one, resulting in serious friendship tensions.

Moving from the optimism of the Allende regime to the fearfulness that came with the Pinochet coup, from the openness of childhood to the wariness of a sexualized adolescence, the narrative is driven by the memories of Léo, the most complex of the three. A poet who romanticizes his dead father and tends to his blind mother, Léo doesn’t commit wholeheartedly to the socialist politics espoused by his friends, nor does he allow his feelings full rein.

Funny and intense in turn, Laborde’s script, filled with poetic monologues and pungent dialogue, is about the boundless universe that the young see before them and the limits later imposed by life’s experiences.

Director Richard Rose‘s taut production, using every inch of Graeme S. Thomson‘s triangular set, captures the trio’s dreams and the large- and small-scale troubles that turn them into nightmares.

Pifko’s solid and intentionally underplayed Isolda, drawn to both men, offers a touch of tartness along with the sweet sensuality taught her by Léo. Di Zio’s noble-minded speechmaker needs a touch more fire to show us the zealot in Rodrigo’s personality still, he offers some chilling moments after the Pinochet takeover.

It’s Antonio who anchors the play superbly as Léo, the writer who hints in verse what he’s initially afraid to reveal to others. Happiest when the other two make him the centre of their worlds, Léo is an intense figure, frail despite his bravado. A passionate, sexual, reflective man, Léo, finally realizing his own blindness, opens his eyes to the truth of his desires and the nature of his world.

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