“…a lot of things that can’t happen are happening.” ~ in José Rivera’s MARISOL
José Rivera’s fantastically powerful portent of a world without watchfulness for those once guarded by angels, where the cardinal directions are confused, the Moon has disappeared, having credit card debt or being homeless can be deadly, coffee is extinct and there are golf club toting crazies, is fabulously riveting as directed by James Ijames at Villanova Theatre.
In this complex cataclysmic discord, the angels, in an act of restoration, have gone off to war to annihilate a superannuated, senile God, and so appear to those they protect to let them know that there is now no time to watch over them. Marisol Perez (Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez), who remains living in a risky area of the Bronx, NYC where she grew up, even though she has aspired to a white collar position as a science publications editor, is invited to fight in the war against God by her Angel (Alexandra King). Marisol initially refuses. She has deliberately taken a different path than those she grew up with in the Bronx, purposefully educating herself to exceed and excel; yet her heart and her mind are still torn. But the infernal tempest about to tear through the mega-mess that was once the city of New York, ripping an insane spatiality as the angels shed wings for weapons to bear, ultimately turns Marisol inside out on a cold, perilous, and oftimes comical, surreal journey where shared dreams point the way towards conscientiousness, hope and regeneration…
The cast lifts Rivera’s lyrical lines up with clarity and verve, cohesively working towards a comprehensive vision of a cosmos in calamity, spiked with some well delivered dark comedy. Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez takes her character Marisol through the Hero’s Journey with heart, voice and soul. Her expressions and interactions with other characters along the way endearingly demonstrate growth and inner strength to survive and adapt and arise reborn. Wannabe boyfriend, Lenny, who is alternately dangerous and amorous, and literally full of surprises, is played with particular pluck and wit by Leo Bond. Laura Barron shines as Marisol’s workplace friend and Lenny’s plagued sister June, and later as a psychopathic skinhead who scorches the disenfranchised. Nikitas Menotiades is outstanding as Man With Scar Tissue, his interlude encounter along the path of Marisol is one of the most memorable moments in the twists and turns of the play. Kim Shimer is fun to watch as she does a bang-up job as the Woman With Furs, et al, giving her role uppity oomph, when either sallying a joke, or a golf club. Patrick McAndrew, portraying Man With Golf Club, along with a few other roles, displays a gift for tension building, among other talents in this story of the struggle for survival.
Outstanding staging of swiftly shifting supernatural reality is supported by a terrific crew and technical team, and the ensemble, all of whom work together in tandem to ensure smooth scene changes, lighting and sound, all of which contribute much to the magic created. The set (Parris Bradley) utilizes a sliding back wall, scaffolding and benches which are repositioned to suit each scene, a cool ghost light, and boxes that drop snow/angel dust from above, which looks amazing under special lighting (Jerold R. Forsyth). Spectacular, other worldly lighting schemes and sensational sound (John Stovicek) play a large role in establishing the aura of a nightmarish urban war zone. Cleverly conceived post apocalyptic apparel (Jennifer Povish) is suitably fitting to the tale, and looks great on stage. The awe factor is present both on and off stage in this effulgent production.
MARISOL, wrapped in the setting of a wintry NYC, first premiered in 1992 in Louisville Kentucky, won an Obie Award in 1993, and continues to be a timely theme in today’s turbulence.
[Villanova Theater at Vasey, Lancaster Pike west of Ithan Avenue] November 8-20, 2016; villanovatheatre.org.