Back in the late 1940s and early ‘50s the talk along the New York Rialto was about whether Tennessee Williams could broaden his approach. Sure, the critics and others said, he’s written great plays such as the ever-so-human “Glass Menagerie” and the stinging “A Streetcar Named Desire.” But can he go in other directions, take us to new places?
Well, Tennessee returned fire with a play of Sicilian passion and wildness. “The Rose Tattoo” is a bawdy, farcical piece of slapstick. It careens wildly from the desire for sexual love to abject loneliness; it is a great mish mash of pure sex, much fun, along with overdone and overlong sidetracks. It can verge on the boring, the too much, and then bring you back with flashing comedy and, finally, the pure drama of salvation.
Now, 2nd Story, a theater that’s had comebacks of its own, takes on the tale. The result is a firecracker of a production, one that overcomes “The Rose Tattoo’s” built in, wandering plot. Always an advocate of a speeding, scampering production, director Ed Shea has apparently taken the advice of the playwright himself who once wrote that “The Rose Tattoo” should be produced “not with mere realism but with that poetically expressive treatment of realistic detail . . .”
Shea’s direction does all that and more as a large cast cuts and thrusts through the play at breakneck speed. The plot looks in on Serafina, born and raised in Louisiana, but who has lived her life in a community filled with immigrants who in their hearts are Sicilian forever. (Williams, by-the-way, dreamed up the play after a stay in Sicily with the family of his then partner, Frank Merlo.)
A bride at 14, Serafina, has lost her husband to a Machiavellian automobile accident and she has descended into a loud and prickly depression. She’s driving herself and everybody around her crazy. Her daughter, her friends, her priest cannot help her.
Arrive, then, a hot sexy young man, a truck driver like her husband. Then a shocking piece of information is also revealed. All is chaos, and redemption.
Rae Mancini takes on the centerpiece role of Serafina. At first, you wonder where her passion is; she seems on auto pilot. But in the end it’s her good-natured portrait of a woman in the middle of a mess that wins you over, makes you care.
The supporting cast is strong. Ara Boghigian is a wonderful mix of concern and conniving as a suitor to Serafina while Andrew Iacovelli chases her daughter with fullout charm. Vince Petronio is quietly strong as Serafina’s priest.
And then, there’s Dakota, the goat. Yes, there is a wild goat in this wild play. I’m not even going to try to explain her part. You’ll just have to go see “The Rose Tattoo” for yourself. And, hopefully, you’ll appreciate its strengths and be able to overlook its weaknesses. You know, that kind of makes this play seem a lot like life.
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