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Kiss of the Spider Woman

At a time when the Obama administration has successfully, even if perhaps (and hopefully) only temporarily, won the right to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without charges, comes Vintage Theatre's revival of the 1993 Broadway hit musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman, a cautionary tale of two male cellmates in an Argentine prison in the 1950s (though the novel is set in September, 1975).

(Left to right) Gabriel Morales and Molina and Brian Merz-Hutchinson
(L to R) Gabriel Morales and Molina
and Brian Merz-Hutchinson
Photo: Ellen Nelson
When first tossed together, the two men, Molina (Gabriel Morales), a gay window-dresser, and Valentin (Brian Merz- Hutchinson), a leftist revolutionary, couldn't be more different, and therein lies the art of the story—book by Terrence McNally, music by John Kander and Fred Ebb, based on the 1976 novel by Manuel Puig—with a multifaceted dramatic arc amplified by torture scenes and etherealized by fanciful song and dance numbers, in which the alter-egos (Megan Van De Hey) of Aurora, a film star, and one of her famous characters, the Spider Woman, visit the men and their prison mates.

Van De Hey (recently Low-Dive Jenny in Miners Alley's The Three Penny Opera and Svetlana in the Arvada Center's Chess) is mesmerizing as the enchanting seductress, packing a wallop with her usual zest and nuance, and as exhibit A for Erin Leonard's flashy, fun, and effective costumes. Merz-Hutchinson's well-shaded turn from macho standoffishness to compassionate friend, with a warm tenor to boot, draws us to Valentin's plight. Morales clearly has the most fun of anyone, reveling in Molina's flamboyant excesses and shameless fantasies.

(Left to right) Julie Lemieux as Marta and Deborah Persoff as Mother
(L to R) Julie Lemieux as Marta
and Deborah Persoff as Mother
Photo: Ellen Nelson
The women in Molina's and Valentin's lives, Mother (Deborah Persoff) and Marta (Julie Lemieux) add delightful hues to the vocal spectrum.

Musically speaking, director Craig Bond takes a minimalist approach—understandable given the costs of what would be considered basic live instrumentation—but it is distracting none-the-less. There's only so much a keyboard and synthesizer can do (even if it is Mitch Samu), which particularly diminishes the robustness and flow of the larger production numbers.

Nevertheless, we are compelled to consider this portrait of everyday terror faced recently by Argentinians, while we fend against unconstitutional attempts by U.S. executive branch attorneys under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama seeking precedent to justify torture, assassination, and suspension of habeus corpus.

Vintage Theatre Production's presentation of Kiss of the Spiderwoman runs through December 2nd. For tickets: 303-856-7830 or vintagetheatre.com.

Bob Bows

 

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