BWW Review: KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN is a Web of Misses at The Central New York Playhouse
The Central New York Playhouse has earned a reputation for taking on some shows that are not often seen in the community theater realm and they typically do those productions well enough. There are usually enough positive elements that make it easy to overlook the negative ones. Unfortunately, in the case of their present musical production of Kiss of The Spider Woman, there are more misses than wows.
The Tony Award-winning musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman features music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb (songwriting team for the hit musical Chicago), along with a book by Terrence McNally. The musical itself is based on a novel by Manuel Puig.
It takes place in a prison in Argentina where a gay window dresser named Luis Alberto Molina (Nic MacLane) is serving his third year of an eight-year prison sentence for molesting a minor. To escape the torture of his time in prison, he goes into a fantasy world. He is obsessed with movies and one star in particular named Aurora (Erin Sills). Molina thinks Aurora is fabulous in all her roles, but there is one role that scares him - and that was her role as the Spider Woman, a woman that kills with her kiss.
One day, Molina gets a new cellmate name Valentin (Liam Fitzpatrick), a Marxist revolutionary. Molina constantly talks about Aurora and his mother to drown out the cries of the other prisoners. Valentin can't stand Molina's fantasies and draws a line to keep him away, but his talking continues and finally Molina learns the name of the girl Valentin is in love with. When Valentin is tortured by the guards, Molina continues to care for him - and he fantasizes that Aurora is right there helping him. Molina might have a way out of his current predicament - and that is by giving the name of the woman Valentin is in love with to the Warden (Eric Feldstein). Will he give up the name of the man he has become close to, so he can be with his sick mother or continue to endure the torture of being in that prison cell?
Director Abel Searor's passion and devotion to the project is evident. At times I found myself watching him conduct the orchestra offstage because that was often more entertaining than what was happening onstage.
However, there were a few standout performers that once again proved their skills. As Valentin, Liam Fitzpatrick's vocals were top notch and his passion for the role and story came through in his acting. His standout moment was the emotional number "The Day After That." Fitzpatrick gave his all in the role and his vocals stole the show.
Erin Sills was seductive, confident, and bold as the Spider Woman/Aurora. Her piercing eyes, seductive strut in Donnie Williams' detailed costumes, and killer confidence made her perfect for the role. Her vocals were (as always) powerful, emotional, and stole each scene. She was the definition of a triple threat and dazzled in the breathtaking title number "Kiss of the Spider Woman."
Eric Feldstein as the Warden once again impressed with his impeccable line delivery skills. Patricia Catchouny as Molina's Mother, delivered a memorable performance of "You Could Never Shame Me."
Unfortunately, Nic Maclane was disappointing in the integral role of Molina. On the night I attend, his line delivery was often hard to understand. In general, he gave a robotic, emotionless performance and lacked the necessary believability for the role. Molina has some amazing lines, but unfortunately, they got lost in this lackluster performance. Maclane's vocals have improved since he first started performing in many community theater productions in the Syracuse area, but they are not there yet for this particular role.
Shannon Tompkins' choreography may have been a little too much for the inexperienced ensemble members to handle. The ensemble cast members weren't quite together when dancing and their vocals were disappointingly mediocre. However, their vocals did get slightly better towards the end of the show, so maybe they needed more time to warm up.
The minimalist set design by Christopher Lupia features four prison cell doors, a curtain, and elevated area where the Warden is often seen. With such a simple set, one would expect the scene changes to be easy and flow effortlessly. This unfortunately was not what transpired on the night I attended. The scene changes were awkward and sloppy. Further, there were many missed light cues (lighting designed by Liam Fitzpatrick, but there was someone else running the lights) and the sound system was often an issue as well.
Kiss of the Spider Woman at The Central New York Playhouse is a daring production that unfortunately was disappointing to me. The hard work, devotion, and passion of this group is still something that should be greatly respected.
Running time: Two hours and thirty minutes with one fifteen-minute intermission.
Kiss of the Spider Woman runs through October 27, 2018 at The Central New York Playhouse. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions, click here.