KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN and other theater briefs

Reviewed and written by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move


Michael Michetti directs Adrián González and Ed F. Martin in KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, adapted by Argentine writer Manuel Puig from his best selling novel, El beso de la mujer araña, and translated from the Spanish by Allan Baker

In a South American prison in a country under authoritarian rule, two polar opposites, a macho political prisoner committed to the Marxist cause, and a movie-loving, homosexual who escapes the harsh reality of prison life by retelling beloved film noir classics and emulating their glamorous leading ladies, are forced to share a cell in Buenos Aires’ notorious Villa Devoto prison during Argentina’s “Dirty War.”  The play shows the developing relationship of Valentin (González) and his cellmate Molina (Martin), who has apparently been ‘planted’ to sniff out the secrets of Valentin’s revolutionary group.

This intimate two-hander is absolutely gorgeous. Intense, uncomfortable, amusing and ultimately sorrowful, there is an unmistakable chemistry between the two actors from the beginning. The connection between the men attracts and repels them to and from one another as they move through their daily push/pull relationship to a caring but also destructive end.

A beautiful adaptation by Puig with a stunning performance by Ed F. Martin who voices the subtext of the play as mellifluously as the vocal word.  Martin’s storytelling is entrancing as he recounts memories of his favorite film, while González eventually exposes his own vulnerability.  Both are  held in Michetti’s careful direction that is quietly unveiled by an unemotional scenic (Tesshi Nakagawa), lighting (Jared A. Sayeg), and sound (Robert Oriol) design; allowing the actors the full breath of the piece. I can’t think of a production I was more invested in so far this season.  

Pasadena’s A Noise Within presents a four-week run, April 1 through April 23, with previews beginning March 26.

Photo by Craig Schwartz: Ed F. Martin and Adrián González


Moritz von Stuelpnagel directs Elizabeth McGovern, Aaron Costa Ganis and Ryan W. Garcia in the U.S. Premiere of AVA: THE SECRET CONVERSATIONS, written by Elizabeth McGovern, based on the book “The Secret Conversations” by Peter Evans and Ava Gardner.  Produced in association with Karl Sydow.  Produced with the support of the Ava Gardner Trust.  (April 4-May 7 )

It’s rare that I don’t see an actor (as opposed to their character) in a performance, let alone a star with the kind of resume that spans decades of uninhibited dramatic force and extent. But, Elizabeth McGovern embodied Ava Gardner so fully, that I hardly noticed she was even there.

Hypnotic in the title role of, AVA: THE SECRET CONVERSATIONS at The Geffen Playhouse, McGovern gets downright gritty in a gutsy, full-blown exploration of one of Hollywood’s most meta-femmes fatales of her time. 

Read the review at Broadway World.


Shakespeare Center LA & After Hours Theatre Company present THE TEMPEST: AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE

During Elizabethan times the relationship between patrons and actors was mutually expressive.  Patrons would throw tomatoes at the villains as they spoke directly to audience members.  Audiences would collectively boo, hiss, and cheer, creating a bawdy and inclusive experience. HOORAY!

Well, that didn’t exactly happen at The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles during their lightly immersive co-production of THE TEMPEST with the After Hours Theatre Company directed by Ben Donenberg.  But there was just enough flavor to satisfy the occasionally interactive presentation.

Less pre-show amuse-bouche and more “a spoon full of sugar” to finale, Prospero’s magical island did not lack in entertainments. But as always, everything revolves around him – entirely. Shakespeare’s comedy (and possibly his last) about a major act of betrayal, ill treatment, the development of magic arts and a plot of revenge was made thoroughly delightful,  if not always sensical (there’s only so much you can do about a play with no real story plot) by the ensemble cast.  I’ve never been able to imagine why this play is so popular.  So little actually happens. And, as it stands, you will have to imagine for yourself. The show is now closed.  But there are several accolades to be given for this production nevertheless.

Chris Butler put in one of the strongest performances of the evening as Prospero. Also, spontaneously humorous Butler drives this play in a far more multi-dimensional, level up than a just a man with enchantments and spirits at his disposal.  The kaleidoscopic drama that revolved around him was made definitely intriguing by the uber talented efforts of Sara Beil (Immersive designer), Michael Roth (composer), Leah Ramillano (scenic design), Dana Rebecca Woods (costume designer), Dan Wiengarten (lighting design), Cricket Myers (co-sound design), and Stephen Heckel (technical director & props designer).  And ensemble cast members: Leith Burke, Wayne T Carr, Mason Conrad, Rodney Gardiner, Jin Maley, Daniel T. Parker, Anja Racic, Christopher Rivera, Ulato Sam, Kay Sibal, Paul Stanko, Peter Van Norden, Robert Vestal, KT Vogt and Jonathan Von Mering.



Sometimes your best friend is also your worst enemy.

Boston Court Pasadena opens their 20th anniversary theatre season with Unrivaled by Rosie Narasaki, a world premiere co-production with Playwrights’ Arena, directed by Boston Court’s Associate Artistic Director Margaret Shigeko Starbuck, March 16 – April 23. This production is Starbuck’s Main Stage directorial debut, and features an all-AAPI (Asian-American, Pacific Islander) cast, playwright, and a primarily AAPI creative team. Unrivaled features Katie Kitani (Murasaki Shikibu), Chelsea Yakura-Kurtz (Sei Shonagon), Cindy Nguyen (Empress Teishi), and David Huynh (Michinaga).

Billed as the ultimate frenemy story, Unrivaled is a fictional account of two of Japan’s most beloved female writers, 11th-century ladies-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon as they ascend and descend in the pre-Shogun Japanese court through the favors and friendship of the young Empress.

Notwithstanding that the dialog is hysterically allusive to Alicia Silverstone and gang in CLUELESS, the deep undertones of female independence and interdependence viewed through a female lens are encouragingly multifaceted.  

You can listen to the audio review here.

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