IT'S okay to laugh at an Ariel Dorfman play. Although this Chilean author is a prolific chronicler and dogged opponent of torture, repression and human rights abuse in that Land Where Terrible Things Happen, he insists that laughter is sometimes an entirely appropriate response to grim events.
"When you come from Latin America, laughter becomes necessary for survival," said Mr. Dorfman, whose new play, "The Other Side," opens Dec. 13 at City Center in a Manhattan Theater Club production. "A great deal of tragedy comes out of situations that are absurd and ridiculous. The rigid attitudes of people, the gap between their illusions of reality and reality kicking them in the butt, are a great source for laughter. We're one inch away from the pratfall becoming a cliff fall."
"The Other Side" is the first Dorfman play to be produced in New York City since his 1992 work, "Death and the Maiden," and the second of three major Dorfman premieres mounted in the United States this season. In it, the dramatist's black sense of humor declares itself soon after a loud explosion. An unknown man, a border guard, smashes through the wall of wooden hut, erected by a husband and wife (played by John Cullum and Rosemary Harris) on the border of two countries that have been waging a war for several decades.
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