Ariel Dorfman’s play Widows is about a political protest in a country ruled by a military junta. It was written in collaboration with playwright Tony Kushner (the author of Angels in America), and based on Dorfman’s 1983 novel of the same name. The play was first presented by the Traverse Theatre Company at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on 5 March 1997. (An earlier version of the play was first performed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in July 1991).
A brutal conflict has come to an end, with the ruling class victorious and the military in firm control. In a country village women await news of the dozens of men taken captive by the army, supposedly for being involved in the rebellion or for holding dissident views. But the only sign of the lost is a corpse that floats down the river one day. Decomposing and disfigured by torture, the faceless man is claimed by Sofia Fuentes, a grandmother who has lost a father, husband and two sons to the violence. A soldier in charge of keeping the peace in the area fears that if she is allowed to claim the body, uncomfortable questions will be raised about the man’s death. He burns it in secret. When the river gives up another body, it is claimed by all the widows of the town as a protest against the army’s refusal to answer questions about the whereabouts of their men.
The premiere at Cambridge Arts Theatre was directed by Ian Brown and designed by Mark Leese with a cast including Edith Maccarthur as Sofia Fuentes.