From the 1976 novel by Manuel Puig, not to be confused with the Broadway musical of the same name, The Kiss of the Spider Woman, what theatre folks call a 'two hander' lands on the stage at A Noise Within in Pasadena.
Director Michael Michetti captures the essence of what Luis Alberto Molina (Ed F. Martin) and Valentin Arregui Paz (Adrián González) present as an odd dance reflecting the times of revolution in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
It's the Villa Devoto prison. The beautiful set design by Tesshi Nakagawa, takes the dingy cell to a romanic level bringing it intimatatly close to the audience. "Walls" are imagined with violet lights above and below.
Valentin is a young declared revolutionary. Fourteen years his senior, Molina is not. Molina is in for Gross Indecency. Or so we are led to believe.
It takes a bit of time for the acting styles of Martin and Gonzalez to meld. Gonzalez's impatient pace while the more laconic and concentrated style of Martin provides a path for the energy of the piece to move forward. Molina narrates the plot of the 1942 film Cat People. Story time in prison. In notes we see that Puig was a fan of the movies as a kid. This narrative device succeeds in bringing the characters together at odds with lifestyle and their respective ages, almost a generation apart.
|Ed F. Martin and Adrián González|
Photo by Craig Schwartz
Keeping in mind that in our Twenty-first Century days of gender by self-assignment, the idea was practically unheard of in the seventies and homophobia was even legislated. Because gay issues were mostly taboo topics, this story may have had more impact fifty years ago.
Molina is a self declared transsexual, but still refers to himself as a 'fag'. Certainly, it is some form of homosexual practice that has landed him in jail. There is more to his being in this cell with Valentin than meets the eye.
Here we step into the story of the Marxist & the Trans. Name dropping will align theatre goers with the strong dramatic appeal of this play. The original characters were played at the opening at the Bush Theatre in London by Mark Rylance and Simon Callow, Valentin & Molina respectively.
In 1985, William Hurt and Raul Julia brought the story in broad strokes to the big screen earning a Best Actor Oscar for Hurt.
As Molina, Martin brings his character with deliberate kindness and patience: mostly without stereotypical gestures. Gonzales takes a while to settle. But, soon we learn that Molina has more at stake than meets the eye. That he would fall for Valentin and that a tender relationship might evolve seems a surprise yet, inevitable. Molina posits that if women were 'in charge' that there would be no torture! It does make sense.. Tenderness.
In today's dust ups in society regarding men in dresses and the explosion of people becoming every imaginable version of themselves, would Molina be considered an objectionable 'drag queen?' The question in our crazy political times is valid. Molina declares "herself" to be a 'real woman,' making no real effort to present as such. Unlike Hurt's rendition of Molina, Martin's presentation in attitude and gesture are contained and subtle. Balding and even dowdy, Molina's actual business in this prison remains to be seen.
The men embrace. Molina's voice narrates the conclusion: leaving us with a notion that living for the future as Valentin's Marxist philosophy dictates and to live for the moment: the foundation of Molina's ideas and ideals come together. A kiss.
Lighting design by Jared A. Sayeg and sound by Robert Oriol with musical interstitials by Alex Mansour are extraordinary, making the tech aspects of the show integral to the production.
CREATIVE TEAM & CREW
Stage Manager Lucy Houlihan*
Assistant Stage Manager Karin Naono
Scenic Designer Tesshi Nakagawa
Costume Designer Carolyn Mazuca
Lighting Designer Jared A. Sayeg†
Sound Designer Robert Oriol
Props Designer Stephen Taylor
Composer Alex Mansour
Intimacy Coach Carly DW Bones
Casting Victoria Hoffman
Light Board Operator Jacob Padilla
Master Electrician Fiona Jessup
Resident Dramaturg Dr. Miranda
PR: Lucy Pollak (a patient lady)
The Kiss of the Spider Woman
by Manuel Puig
Translated by Allan Baker
A Noise Within
3352 E Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
April 1 through April 23 on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. (no 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, April 1).
Four preview performances take place on Sunday, March 26 at 2 p.m.; Wednesday, March 29 and Thursday, March 30, each at 7:30 p.m.; and Friday, March 31 at 8 p.m.
Kiss of the Spider Woman features adult content and is recommended for mature audiences ages 18 and up.
For more information and to purchase tickets, call (626) 356–3100 or go to www.anoisewithin.org
• Free parking is available directly behind the theater at the Sierra Madre Villa Metro parking structure,149 N. Halstead St.