Written by Erin Tobin
Escapism has always been one of the joys of theater. In The Kiss of the Spider Woman, it is a central theme as the main character, Luis Molina, chooses to evade the terrors of the Southern American jail he is imprisoned in by fantasizing about the cinematic success of his favorite actress Aurora. Enthralled with her since childhood, he avoids the torture and turmoil around him by happily reliving all of her famous works except one role that haunts him; when she played a venomous Angel of Death known as the Spider Woman.
Thanks to the intimate setting of Santa Ana’s Theatre Out the audience is drawn into the harsh realities of Molina’s life before the first word is spoken, since the size of the space leaves you feeling like you’re sitting on his cell floor. Played by Michael Paul, Molina
photo courtesy : Theatre Out
is a technicolor spectacle in a drab world, and since we squirm as he faces horror and humiliation, it makes sense we long to embrace the happiness of his fantasies. Yet Paul brings forth the character’s pitiful nature and cowardice, constantly reminding the audience that Molina is perfectly aware of the world around him, he’s just choosing not to deal with it.
In contrast is Valentine Paz, Molina’s newest cellmate and his perfect foil. Stoic and reserved, Valentine is a revolutionary activist caught up in his cause with dreams and desperation of his own. Ron Holsey brings to life both the character’s strength as well as his disgust at both Molina and the fact that his own predicament cuts him off from bringing about the type of change he longs for.
As we watch Molina and Paz’s relationship traverse from the tension of awkward roommates to something that may be romance and is certainly respect, an assortment of other characters come into play. Unfortunately, the most notable of these isn’t Aurora herself. While actress Nicki Peek captures the sultry, sexy nature of the Spider Woman, she seems to lack some of the confidence that really brings the part to life. Instead more memorable performances come from Glen Freeze as the corrupt and dirty Warden and Sherry Domerego as Molina’s adoring and resilient yet fragile mother. An ensemble of prisoners bounce between other roles, and while it was a delight to see hardened criminals suddenly break out in jazz squares and tangos, sometimes the routines feel too big for the space in which they are confined.
photo courtesy : Theatre Out
Kiss of the Spider Woman almost seems like too big a production for Theatre Out, but in end it works nicely. The musical fits perfectly into the company’s repertoire, Paul and Holsey capture the essence of their characters, they have the vocal chops to pull them off, and the small set lends itself well to the depressing and claustrophobic prison while still provided moments of theatrical whimsy and magic. While Kiss of Spider Woman isn’t a happy escape, it certainly is a memorable one.
May 8 – June 13