Marisol By Jose Rivera
Directed by Julia Listengarten
Starring Regina Gonzales, Kelli Sleigh, Mason Criswell, Rachel Davis
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL</strong>
As the economy crumbles and disasters loom on every front, the theater of romantic comedy is replaced by dark, brooding absurdism with growing body counts and excessive use of fog machines. Not content with Titus Andronicus body counts, Jose Rivera provides us with multiple demises of the same players. An apocalyptic set by Mitch Orben looms over looms over the life of Marisol (Gonzales). Her middle class employment and professional dress doesn’t preserver her from the war zone of Brooklyn and a hellish subway ride home. Her guardian angel went off to join a cosmic war, the moon has disappeared, and when a psycho on the B train beats her to death with a golf club, she has to come in late for work the next day. Big haired coworker June (Sleigh) invites her over to her apartment for coffee and maybe a permanent residence, but June’s psycho artist brother Lenny (Criswell) beats June to death with the same 5 iron, only to get a brain divot himself a few pages later. Bad as these sounds, Marisol’s lot decays even further in the after life. Hell is supposed to be bad, but homelessness behind the pearly gates is no treat either.
Gonzales’s Marisol seems curiously un-Hispanic given the epitaphs tossed her way, but perhaps her ethnicity is just an arbitrary character assignment. It’s not like the universe is just picking on one minority in this world with no escape, no one can find more than a moment or two. Nothing she wants is within her grasp, not even a quite place to sleep. June is nice enough but has her brother on a leash she barely controls. That’s where the casting is odd; Criswell’s Lenny seems too nice to be the psychotic, unlike the truly scary Man With a Golf Club (Michael Cox).
The staging almost saves this brutal story – Marisol’s heaven is filled with mysterious squirming bodies under a while sheet that form furniture and dissolve the dreams of her post mortem nightmare. The angel that ought to be taking care of Marisol looks like a cross between a national Guardsman in Iraq and a biker at Sturgis, and while this angle can kick Satanic butt she seems unqualified to salve a bruised knee or a broken date. The subtext here points out disaster is bigger than any of us, and like soldiers, our obligation tonight is death for a bigger cause, one that never will be explained. It’s a bruised and bloody audience that staggers out of this brutal work, and we’re not sure what we did to deserve the beating.
For more information on UCF Conservatory Theatre, visit http://www.theatre.ucf.edu