Kiss of the Spider Woman at Bohemian Theatre Ensemble | Theater review
BoHo's revival of a challenging musical has legs but lacks heat.
Based on the 1976 novel by Argentinian author Manuel Puig, also made into a 1985 film, Kander and Ebb's musical adaptation debuted on Broadway two decades ago, depicting an unlikely relationship between cellmates in an unnamed Latin American dictatorship. Molina, a gay window dresser imprisoned on morals charges, spends his days escaping into fantasies starring his bygone screen idol, Aurora, until exposure to idealistic revolutionary Valentin grounds him in the real world and its consequences.
And yet in BoHo's revival, that connection between Molina and Valentin is seen but not truly felt. The two are played by a pair of young but talented actors who bring strong voices to the stage but are somewhat lacking in their characters' emotional underpinnings.
Nathan Carroll's extravagantly effeminate Molina is magnetic but also mannered; his defiant persona feels put on rather than lived in. And Evan Tyrone Martin, in the more ill-defined role of Valentin, doesn't seem to have created the inner life and clear convictions that Terrence McNally's book and Fred Ebb's often generic lyrics fail to supply.
Jennifer T. Grubb has the right style for Aurora, the femme fatale of Molina's fantasies. Yet she, too, appears to be at a remove (even though Peter Marston Sullivan's intimate alley staging never allows her cinematic sequences to actually be separated from the action). Grubb's Aurora has the flash but needs more sense of menace, as does Scott Danielson's non-threatening warden. All around, the stakes are too low.
Still, there's much to enjoy here. Linda Fortunato's choreography, while a little cramped in the space, is impressive and well executed by the small ensemble of dancing prisoners. Bill Morey's costumes—particularly Aurora's array of slinky gowns—are splendid as well, and each of the three lead actors have striking moments. They're just not striking in sync.