Chilean actors Sara Astica and Marcelo Gaete fled political persecution in their native country in 1975 for the more peaceful Costa Rica. Once settled in their new home, the husband-and-wife team founded their own theater company, Grupo Surco. In the years since, Grupo Surco has grown in stature, albeit not in size, and has gained renown around the world.

Astica and Gaete travel to festivals year-round, performing as well as mingling with the international theater set. That's how they met Italian playwrights Dario Fo and Franca Rame, authors of one of the Grupo's current productions, "Pareja Abierta," a story about a couple who have a one-sided open marriage.

"It is of disenchantment, or the dissolving of unfulfilled love," says Gaete, his voice rich, resonant and romantic. "The husband proposes a game ... a masculine proposition, a machismo game, with the idea that the woman isn't going to get an extramarital relationship because she will be seen as the married woman. The man can get away with what he wants. But when she does get an offer, the man can't tolerate it and destroys it -- which is very typically machismo, not only in Latin America, but any part of the world."

"It has a great sense of humor," he says, "but it has a great feminist message."

The second play presented by the Grupo is "El Loco y la Triste" ("The Crazy One and the Sad One"), a love story set in Chile during the political upheaval of the 1970s.

Even though the lovers are outcasts -- he a vagabond, she a prostitute -- "they have feelings and hopes and dreams," Gaete says. "When they first find each other, it creates a great solidarity. It involves love. They don't want to admit that it is love at first, but then they recognize it. Unfortunately, when they discover this, it's exactly the moment of destruction of the place they have created."

"The story expresses what I believe is true," he says. "That outcasts have their own colors, their own life, their own inner colors that have to be discovered. And they are trying to show the public what those colors are, with humor and tenderness."

Grupo Surco will present "Pareja Abierta" on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and "El Loco y la Triste" next Sunday at 4 p.m. at GALA Hispanic Theatre, 1625 Park Rd. NW. Tickets are $17 and available at the door. For information and reservations, call 202-234-7174.