According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Season of Change: Marisol

Well intentioned and well produced by the Dreamscape Theater, Marisol is still an ambigious and uncompelling bit of theater about having to action and accountability for your life. Or simply a dramatic excuse to have babies spring from homicidal men as the world comes to an end.

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

More poetically political theater than magnificent magical realism, Dreamscape Theater’s revival of Jose Rivera’s Marisol is a solid production of an insubstantial script. Rivera’s script bounces from a girl losing her guardian angel in a dystopic interpretation of the Bronx to a story about angels overthrowing God and the existence of hope in a world where Nazis go around lighting the homeless on fire. The real-world events that inspired such imaginative riffs are clear. But staged? They grow turgid due to Rivera’s need to justify. Oblique, Rivera’s work becomes hard to judge and can be taken as an experience; when it’s made transparent, it’s just piecemeal rambling. Beautiful as the language might sound—and Marisol is filled with great lines—a script that relies so much on happenstance and the recycling of characters cannot sustain itself for over two hours.

Shaun Peknic, the director, does an adequate job of setting the tone of the play. He places his punk-clad angel (Brittany Manor) on a ladder in the background, and when she approaches Marisol (Julie Alexandria), she seems giddy with love. As for Marisol, she seems like the type of woman to be perpetually harassed on the subway by strange men, and sure enough, that’s how the play opens. But Marisol is a play born of too-constant transformations, and it’s hard to see the arc in Alexandria’s character as she goes from a helpless bystander to the type of person able to kill in self-defense. As Alexandra plays the part, she is charming enough that we don’t want to see her raped by a sociopath, but she does seem more plausible­—more dramatically interesting—as a victim. Instead, she floats, like an angel, over the suffering. Deep into the confusing second act, when she dons some rags and wanders through the streets of a town that no longer has a South (or any direction, for that matter), we wonder why she’s just now collided with reality.

It’s hard to make the dream-like visceral, but that’s what Marisol calls for: it is a play where “angels...bored at night...write you nightmares.” And in the first act, where Peknic uses the physical—an ice cream cone thrown at our ingĂ©nue—it is painstakingly efficient. But in the second act, where hobos crawl from cave-like blankets only to be doused with imaginary gasoline and symbolically lit on fire, it’s harder to understand what’s going on. A baby born of silk scarves—by a man who we thought dead in the first act­­... well, that throws even imaginative plausibility out the window and unhinges the emotion from the commotion.

It’s a commendable effort by the Dreamscape Theater to mount this production—atmospheric shows are notoriously difficult on a shoestring budget­—and they pull it off. But what “it” is, and whether or not “it” is worth seeing...that’s the question.

Dreamscape Theater (
Hudson Guild Theater (441 W 26th Street)
Tickets ( $15.00
10/21 @ 8:00; 10/22 @ 7:00; 10/28 @ 1:00

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