THE KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN: THE MUSICAL
Book by Terrence McNally, Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Based on the Novel by Manuel Puig
Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center for the Arts
Directed by Adam Adolfo
Musical Direction by Josh Bradford
Choreographed by Elise Lavallee
Set Design - Oliver Luke
Lighting Design - Matt Wasson
Costume Design - Justin Kailer
Aurora Make-up Design- Janie Calderon
Prisoner Make-up Design- Oliver Luke
Hair Design- Lyn Marie
Aurora/ The Spiderwoman- Emily Kate Hardy
Molina- Jason Robert Villarreal
Valentin- Keith J. Warren
Marta- Michelle Foard
Gabriel/Prisoner/Entr'acte Soloist- Zak Dacus Reynolds
Molina's Mother- Danielle Reboli
Warden- Rob Bosquez
Prisoner Ernesto- Eduardo Aguilar
Prisoner Fuentes- Cody Ceneti
Prisoner/ "Come" Dancer- Ian Lewis
Prisoner/ Aurelio- Carl Ramsey
Prisoner/ "Jesus Thou Art" Soloist- Drew Sifford
Marcos- Fredy Quiroga
Esteban- Antonio Romero
Reviewed Performance 4/1/2011
Reviewed by Lyle Huchton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Continuing in their mission to bring important and timely works of art and theater to the Latino community, Artes de la Rosa, Fort Worth's only Hispanic theater company, mounts a new and environmental staging of Kiss of the Spiderwoman: The Musical, playing until April 10th at The Rose Marine Theater in Fort Worth.
Adapted from the 1976 Manuel Puig novel, El Beso de la Mujer Arana, the story focuses on the relationship between two men held in a grim Argentinean prison. One of them is Molina, a gay window dresser serving time for committing a se* crime, and the other, Valentin, a Marxist revolutionary. The unlikely couple forges a friendship through Molina's fantastical tales woven from movies that star his all time favorite film diva- Aurora.
When we arrived at the theater, I had thought that we may have missed the opening of the show because there was some sort of commotion going on inside with a lot of screaming and banging. As we entered and found our seats, I realized that this was part of the pre-show. Lately it has become the trend for theater companies to employ this type of "pre-show" to set the mood of the piece and to allow the audience to feel more a part of the action. Here we had two of the prison's henchmen wandering the aisles, bullying the audience, and physically assaulting the prisoners.
It takes a special balance to make this type of theatrics actually work. In this case, the over use of a fog machine, the fake cobwebs strung on every viable surface and the constant screams from backstage made me feel as if I had entered a Halloween Spook House, not a forbidding Latin American prison.
The set design by Oliver Luke, like many aspects of this production, had some good and some not so good qualities. Above the playing area hung a series of intertwined spider webs that framed the action nicely. The prison cell bars stretched the length and width of the stage, allowing for some inventive choreography by Elise Lavallee. The light sconces in the audience were covered with what appeared to be metal spider webs that added a nice touch. But the painted red and black splotches of exposed brick on the walls took on a cartoonish appearance.
I also had some issues with the bunk beds that were used in the prison cell. The top bunk was problematic because it cast a dark shadow on whoever was in the bottom bunk. I wished that the bed unit could have been split apart to allow another level to the playing area. The separate beds would have also added dramatic effect needed to help the audience visualize what the lyrics were saying in "I Draw the Line". There was also a pay phone mounted to the stage left wall that was eventually used late in the second act. It made no sense that it was inside what was supposed to be Molina's and Valentin's prison cell.
Justin Kailer is one of the few costumers these days that actually designs and builds costumes. With strong construction skills he showed promise with this productions costume design. He too, however, had some hits and misses. The hooded black velvet cape used on The Spiderwoman was a perfect choice, and allowed her to be a looming presence over her victims. I also liked his choice to outfit Molina's Mother in a taffeta lavender cocktail dress when she would appear in his fantasies, and then change her to a simple cotton shift when she became a reality.
The prisoner costumes were all over the place with nothing uniform about them to link them together. The costumes failed to establish a time frame to the piece. Mr. Kailer got no help here from the prisoner's makeup designed by Oliver Luke. They wore Goth/zombie inspired blackened eye shadow. Distracting at best, the eye makeup took away every expression the actor may have used.
I had seen actress Emily Kate Hardy in a number of different roles across the metroplex and was always attracted to her vibrant and clear performances. Here, as Aurora/The Spiderwoman she took a more subdued approach to the character. During her musical numbers she was a bit overwhelmed by the onstage orchestra, but she handled her dance sequences with ease.
Producing two of the evenings more memorable musical numbers was Keith J. Warren as Valentin and Zak Dacus Reynolds as Gabriel. In the first, "Gabriel's Letters/My First Women", Warren and Reynolds delivered a pitch perfect duet. The second vocal musical highlight came at the beginning of Act Two with the anthem "The Day After That" in which Mr. Warren showed an impressive vocal range.
Other notable performances included Michelle Foard as Marta, Danielle Reboli as Molina's Mother, and Rod Bosquez as The Warden.
Jason Robert Villarreal took a subtle approach to the usually flamboyant Molina. Playing against type, he may have gone a bit too far, leaving the character bland. He and Mr. Warren had no true chemistry together. He too was unable to sing over the assertive onstage orchestra.
I really have to applaud Artes De La Rosa for sticking to their mission and tackle such a dark and serious piece as Kiss of the Spiderwoman. But their attempt to put their own unique stamp on the production got clouded over by heavy-handed design elements and thus they lost the true beauty and magic of the story.
Actress Emily Kate Hardy (The Spiderwoman) suffered an injury that will leave her out of the production for the remainder of the run. Hardy sustained an injury but continued the performance on Saturday, April 2 during an onstage dance scene with a fellow actor.
After curtain call, Ms. Hardy was escorted to the hospital where doctors ascertained that her foot was indeed broken and she would need bed rest. On doctor's orders, sadly she will be out of the show for the rest of the run.
Artistic Director Adam Adolfo stated in a press release Tuesday that "Emily has been a guiding light and bearer of great passion for this production and her stamp on this show and role will not be forgotten. Her spirit, passion, and thirst for artistry have been a force for the whole company. We are eager to see what the future holds in store for this `true star'."
Replacing Miss Hardy for the remainder of the production will be G. Williams. Williams will begin with the regular performance schedule Thursday April 7th.
Artes De La Rosa presents
Kiss of the Spiderwoman, The Musical
The Rose Marine Theater, 1440 North Main Street, Ft Worth,Tx
Plays through April 10th
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm, and Sunday matinees
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and students.
For tickets or more information, call the Rose Marine Theater
Box Office 817-624-8333 or visit www.rosemarinetheater.com