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'Marisol' Mostly Mesmerizes


April 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

Catholic and ethnic angst; a cry of help for the downtrodden; urban realism in contention with spiritual magic; Latino pride in gritty New York; a beautifully written play that at times overdoes it and at others mesmerizes; a production that almost pulls this amalgam through. That's Juan Rivera's Marisol being presented by Fort Lauderdale's Sol Theatre Project.

Marisol (Guisela Moro) is a Puerto Rican who works as an editor of science books in Manhattan. She lives in a monastic apartment in the Bronx in the company of a statue of the Virgin Mary, to which she lights candles nightly. On a fatidic night, her Guardian Angel (Nicole Holliday) tells her that she has called other celestial bodies to declare war on a senile God so that the vitality of the universe is restored. From then on, Angel tells Marisol, she must fend for herself. Marisol's life, if indeed she lives, enters into a twilight zone where she'll face life-threatening situations, the loss of her dear friend June (Erynn Dalton) and June's obsessed brother Lenny (Ford D'Aprix), among others. More than a religious or spiritual struggle, these dream-like sequences reflect strongly on the economic and social differences of life in New York. (There are also strong references to ecological disasters.)

Director Robert Hooker, with the help of good lighting by Jim Gibbons and sound by Jeff Holmes, often makes this difficult play gel. The multiple scenes change swiftly and the set reflects the apocalyptic world Rivera takes us to.

If there is one overall problem with the production, it's that Moro doesn't quite show us the depth of Marisol's dilemmas, which go from doubting Catholicism to her making a stand, as she describes herself, as a middle-class Puerto Rican from the Bronx. There is, though, a certain charm to her vulnerability. D'Aprix stands out as the mentally and sexually troubled Lenny, a character that Rivera overplays at the end. The rest of the cast, especially Gibbons in two small roles and Mary Jo Pitasi as one of the strange characters Marisol encounters, keep the drama in the vignettes flowing.

It's good to see another of Rivera's plays done in South Florida. (Cloud Tectonics was presented by New Theatre a few seasons ago.) Regardless of its weaknesses, Sol's production of Marisol provides that opportunity.

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