a Noise Within in Pasadena Stages a Sharp Production of Kiss of the Spiderwoman

Based on the Novel by Argentinian Author Manuel Puig, with a Translation to English by Allan Baker, the Piece Directed by Michael Michetti will Have Audiences Sitting Still in this Once-Act Full of Suspenseful Emotion

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardasht

Ed F. Martin and Adrián González. Photo by Craig Schwartz
This was my first time at a Noise Within and coming in to see a play based on the top 100 novels written in Spanish, El Beso de la Mujer Araña by Argentinian author Manuel Puig, and seeing how the story is brought to life on that stage, translated to English by Allan Baker, was a treat. The plot unfolds inside a prison cell in Buenos Aires's Villa Devoto. Inmates Valentin (Adrián González) and Molina (Ed F. Martin) are immersed in a conversation about a noir movie (1942's Cat People) which involves a love triangle with a "panther woman". Molina, a queer person, is in jail due to the corruption of a minor and Valentin is a Marxist who got arrested for going against the government. As the days pass it is revealed that Molina is working as a spy for the warden in order to get information about Valentin's group in exchange for an early release but Molina is already too involved. They both are. The story is tender and melodically written. Tesshi Nakagawa's scenic design of the tight, small cell is meticulously detailed as are Stephen Taylor´s props with a tiny portable stove and a kettle where they have tea every day, a sink, baskets for their supplies, a trashcan, and other compartments where Molina keeps clothes and toiletries. It also resembles the look of the cell in the 1985 film version which lends a familiarity coming in yet, also has its own stage uniqueness and flare. 

Ed F. Martin. Photo by Craig Schwartz

Jared A. Sayeg's lighting design is sharp as there is the cold "chicken coop" type of light inside the cell and a reflection of sunlight on the walls and the floor that totally brings that feel of how the prisoners get a tiny bit of natural light within the gray, somber walls drawing the audience into that tightness. In the play's final moments, the lighting expands revealing the amount of space Nakagawa really used for the design. I thought it was brilliant. It all comes together as a cathartic moment between the characters' fate and the space. A fantastic team effort that is serenaded all around by composer Alex Mansour's original, tango-inspired score transporting audiences to Argentinian airs and getting back to the harsh contained reality with Robert Oriol's sound design that incorporates that hollowness of the cell with the opening and closing of the doors as well as outside, inmate commotion and the haunting, suspenseful voiceovers of the warden (Leandro Cano) and one of the guards (Rafael Goldstein).

There are great pairings in this production starting with the two actors that reveal great chemistry and stage rapport. Ed F. Martin as the dreamer, sensitive Molina is raw with a transparent approach that reaches the last seat in the last row of the theatre, which contrasts well with Adrián González's bold, stern manner that lends a captivating rhythm to the one-act piece.

Carolyn Mazuca's costume design leaned towards Molina as he has different changes and playfully interacts with a scarf while doing his storytelling. Mazuca meshed Martin's portrayal with bright velvets and colorful patterns while González carried a white t-shirt and blue bell-bottomed jeans.

Ed F. Martin and Adrián González. Photo by Craig Schwartz
Michael Michetti's solid direction along with Carly DW Bones's intimacy direction through complex, sexual, and scatological scenes that go by strongly and spotless. As the lighting reveals the full space with the stage moving at the same time, we just hear Molina's voice narrating one last time bringing the catharsis to an end. Kiss of the Spider Woman is a story with many layers that screams everything the author was going through during those times with his country's oppression and his sexuality. Because the term was not yet used, it is not mentioned but we can assume that Molina is a transgender woman. While they both share their struggles and confide in each other, a stronger bond forms baring a complex but organic love story.

Currently playing at a Noise Within in Pasadena, Kiss of the Spider Woman will run until April 23.

For more information on performance times and ticket prices, click HERE.

Please note that free parking is available directly behind the theater at the Sierra Madre Villa Metro parking structure,149 N. Halstead St.

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