The Musical Spectacle of Kiss of the Spider Womanposted on March 17th, 2012 by Kaitlin Overton
The Montclair State Department of Theatre and Dance production of Kiss of the Spider Woman is a spectacle, to say the least. Based originally on a novel by Manuel Puig and made later into a movie, Kiss of the Spider Woman tells the story of two men who are forced to share a jail cell in a prison in Argentina and become unlikely lovers and friends. The story is told mainly by Molina, who used to work as a window dresser and was arrested for the supposed molestation of a minor. Molina has made the best of his life in jail by romanticizing an actress named Aurora, whom he deeply idolizes and later shares with Valentin in an attempt to brighten his spirits. However, there is one character of Aurora’s that Molina does not love but greatly fears: the Spider Woman, whose kiss is deadly.
Molina’s world is one of the movies: flashy, glamorous, dramatic, and full of romance and happy endings. Valentin, on the other hand, is a Marxist rebel who wants nothing to do with Molina or Aurora and only dreams of his girlfriend, Marta, whom he misses dearly.
Christian Berry and Nicholas Rodriguez give very compelling and moving performances as Molina and Valentin. Christian Berry’s Molina is charming, humble, and loving; Molina describes himself not as a homosexual male but as a “classy woman who is down on her luck.” He cares about others and puts himself second to his sick mother and to Valentin, who is constantly beaten by the prison guards. Nicholas Rodriguez’s Valentin is very vocally powerful and strongly acted. It is touching to see his hard exterior deteriorate when he unconventionally falls in love with his cell mate Molina.
Though the story of Kiss of the Spider Woman is not one that is traditional in a piece of musical theater, the production itself has everything that musicals are about: beautiful costumes, big musical numbers, and a gorgeous female muse. The actress playing Aurora and the Spider Woman, Victoria Meade, looks stunning onstage in costume designers Alex and Juliana Abene’s designs. The costumes are appropriate for the environment and world the characters are in. For instance, the prisoners are dressed in off-white uniforms that have been stained and soiled with mud, dirt, and, in one scene, blood. Molina isn’t as dirty but is dressed quite neatly and often sports a red scarf, which nicely suits his love for fashion. We first see Aurora dressed in a 1920s-inspired nighty, the perfect costume in which to meet the muse of the whimsical Molina. Aurora’s wardrobe also includes a bright pink and green showgirl costume, complete with feathers; a maroon ball gown and long, white gloves; and a sheer, skin-tight suit with eight spindly legs. The distinction between the discordant and dirty prison and Molina’s world inside the silver screen is very prominent because of these well-crafted costumes.
The students prove very impressive in their ability to carry this show vocally, as the show consists mostly of music. The ensemble is very cohesive and just as interesting as the leading players; each prisoner has their own unique personality and tics. Kiss of the Spider Woman is a musical for lovers of an eccentric story with very human characters and many effects to see.
Kaitlin Overton is an undergraduate BA Theatre Studies student at Montclair State University.