Trinity Rep has chosen to close its season with, “Marisol” a play concerning a scorching failure of the world. Bill Gale, The Public Radio’s performing arts critic, says that, despite a fine cast, it is just not a winner.
At the end of the theater season many theaters choose to do a work that is bright, and light, yet powerful. Something that leave audiences happy and laughing, even singing. It’s the theater’s way of asking “Hey, loved that? There will be more next year. Can we count on you coming back?”
Well this season Trinity Rep has ignored all that. They have dived in – deeply – into “Marisol,” a wild-eyed, nasty, piece of work by Jose Rivera, born in Puerto Rico, now well-known by the American theater. It is a work that clearly says, screeches actually , that the world is all too much dangerous, too much nasty, too much nutsy, too much of many things.
It tells of the trying life of a young woman from a dangerous section in the Bronx in New York City. She has managed to find a reasonable job, making good money. But she’s also decided not to leave the Bronx.
From there, the play careens through slaughters, physical and mental. There are murders, filthy language, and absurd happenings. On a bare wood stage by designer Eugene Lee, the battle is fought backed by gauzy curtains eventually filled with cut up paper in bags that are scrambled all over the place.
Then, on come such delights as Nazis running about, a man giving birth, and an ice cream cone being forced onto Marisol’s face.
As she struggles everywhere, others fail, fall apart, and die. Angels arrive and tell Marisol and others that they can no longer take care of human beings. Sorry about that.
Among all of this there is a cast that tries its very best. Octavia Chavez-Richmond, yet another Brown-Trinity graduate, is wonderful capturing the idea of a struggling young woman, doing her best amid high difficulties. As an Angel who can’t continue, Mia Ellis is brilliant, bright and funny. Charlie Thurston rips through many a weird minute, managing both humor and horror.
All of this is put together by director Brian Mertes with high, and sometimes over the top, drives. No doubt, the play attempts to point out our losses, our troubles personally and world widely. But it seems to be just too far out, too strongly obvious to make it a work of clear caring, hopeful changes.
How about something else for a season’s winner. Is “My Fair Lady” still possible?
“Marisol” continues at Trinity Rep in Providence through June 16th. Bill Gale covers theater and dance for The Public’s Radio.