Monday, February 17, 2014

"Marisol" challenges, not for every taste

Shermona Mitchell and Carolyn Marie Monroe in Marisol (photo Jessica Martin)

Marisol
(at the INScape Building)
Through February 24

A new company, The Collision Project, is debuting their maiden work, Jose Rivera’s Marisol. The company is comprised of people who have been part of other small companies around town, but say they want to “foster unusual collaborations within highly theatrical, yet simply staged stories.” They want to do that in “cross-disciplinary” experiences.

This production of Marisol does not clearly demonstrate a cross-discipline of any other artistic medium, though it is an interesting and challenging choice of work. Choosing Jose Rivera makes them stand out, since few of his plays have been mounted in Seattle, at least in recent years. Marisol is challenging because it is open to so many interpretations. It is a surreal and non-linear premise that begins with a young woman on a New York subway possibly being murdered with a golf club, but maybe that’s someone else who shares her name.

Perhaps the world is ending. A guardian angel (Shermona Mitchell) comes to Marisol (Carolyn Marie Monroe) and tells her that she must leave to join an angel army against a senile God. Marisol must make it on her own. Marisol isn’t sure who she can trust: a co-worker (Libby Barnard) who turns out to be the sister of the man, Lenny (Ben D. McFadden) with the golf club? a society woman who has been arrested for using her credit card over the limit (Jill Snyder-Marr)? a man with an ice cream cone? a man who has been set upon, gasolined and set on fire, and now oozes burns? (both Carter Rodriguez)

The play has many possible themes running through it. The themes call out for a director to choose among them for the way to thread the needle for the production, rather than throw spaghetti at the wall and see which sticks. Director Ryan Higgins makes a credible stab at the play, but does not help the audience understand the way through very well. The play does not crystallize in the way that could help.

The rudimentary sets are gritty and roughly painted, but succeed in creating a down-at-heels world in low-income New York City. But if we’re to be transported to a realm between worlds, there are few signposts to help us know that we’ve been torn off the Earth.

Rivera’s play is full of Catholic references which are likely opaque to those who are not steeped in that tradition. So, his meaning and the potential redemption (is that what the ends means? That there is the possibility of “winning” somehow, in this world?) Marisol might achieve are probably outside the grasp of those who don’t follow the hierarchies of angels and the traditions of Catholic Hell.


The actors eagerly embrace the challenge. If immersing yourself in a world that is different and challenging is part of why you love to attend theater, then this production is definitely for you. If you like your stories laid out with few questions and endings that wrap everything up, you’ll want to steer clear.