Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Kiss of the Spider Woman at Signature Theatre
Last night's performance of the Kiss of the Spider Woman was done with the finesse we have grown to expect from Signature Theatre.
Afterwards, my partner and I talked about the performances and though he had not seen Chita Rivera in the New York production (November 1993) as I had, we came away with the same reaction: Everything in the production was done with exactness and precision, yet we were not moved. Perhaps it was Chita Rivera herself who brought something unique to the New York production that and the fact that it was done with her in an actual spider web which fit the mood and mystery of the play.
Eric Schaeffer instead chose to have the Spider Woman, played by Natascia Diaz an award-winning actor, move about the stage. A stage which was cleverly done by scenic designer Adam Koch, with the input from Schaeffer no doubt.
Having the Spider Woman move about the stage was okay, but perhaps it was the evening but Natascia Diaz was mostly stiff in her movements. It was not until the end that she and Valentin, played by Will Chase, danced a tango that we felt she had finally warmed up. In fact, both she and Chase seemed to be not comfortable within their characters' skin--this is the only way I can describe the oddness that came across, yet both actors played their roles well.
Yes, I know some have commented on the fact that Valentin, a flaming gay Argentine, seems somehow out of place these days. Indeed the world has changed how gays come across these days: there is no reason to be flaming when everyone is out and no one seems to care; what happens is that one settles down and is simply comfortable dans son chair--in one's own skin.
Perhaps Chase too was not comfortable completely as Valentin because when he arises after death and dances the tango with the Spider Woman his eyes lit up and he was completely within in own skin. This number was one of the finest in the production.
Hunter Foster as Molina was fine. The only uncomfortableness he felt was what he was supposed to portray, being with a flaming gay--now so 1960s or even so 1970s, but not 2008. It was a quick flashback to Boys in the Band--like dinosaurs, but no different than a peak at the musical Chicago in contrast to Gigi for example--things simply get dated as the culture goes on.
To his skill, Schaeffer added today's taste to the play. Certainly the shirtless prisoners spewed eroticism across the stage and the hospital morphine scene Morphine Tango was truly spiked and perhaps chased some "golden settlers" home at intermission or perhaps it was simply that the noise level was too intense.
The ensemble of prisoners were quite good and Karma Camp's choreographer shines through. But it was Danny Binstock who outshone the dancers in more than one number; in fact, he was consistently excellent.
Finally, Steve Cupo as the Warden, a despicable role, one which reminded me of our nation's Abu Gharib horrors, was at his peak. Cupo was not only convincing he was also a bit scary.
Kiss of the Spider Woman is a fine production and one which will bring attention to Arlington thanks to Eric Schaeffer and Signature Theatre.