Marisol

By Jose RiveraMarisol by Rivera at the artistic home

Directed by John Mossman

At The Artistic Home, Chicago

Dark Apocalyptic comedy becomes a riveting theatrical experience

The Artistic Home, under John Mossman’s smart direction with Aaron Menninga’s stellar set design with  Adam Smith’s eerie sound design and Garvin Jellison’s lighting, has mounted a most engrossing bleak urban drama. Playwright Jose Rivera’s 1992 Marisol is a surreal take on survival in the bowls of New York City. It is part magical realism and part Theatre of the Absurd with hints of Jean Genet’s The Balcony thrown in.  The tone is weary as the fantastical vision of the future depicts the ultimate battle between good and evil. The setting is NYC where coffee is nonexistent, food is scarce and folks kill for survival.

Marisol by Rivera at the artistic home

In this insanely hostile world, Marisol (Marta Evans) is a middle class educated soul struggling to make it in a culture plagued by war and scarcity. She is a good soul just trying to find peace and saftey. When her guardian angel (Leslie Ann Sheppard) informs her that she will leave as Marisol’s protector to join the heavenly battle  against a senile and dying God, Marisol’s security is threatened.

Marisol by Rivera at the artistic home

Marisol and her fellow worker June (Kristin Collins) decide to live together at June’s place since her apartment is in a safer neighborhood. But June’s crazy and obsessed brother Lenny (Brandon Thompson) is violently compulsive toward Marisol. The work gets weird as Marisol (no longer protected by her angel) is thrust on a bizarre journey onto the mean streets of Manhattan where she encounters an attacker with a golf club; a man having a baby; and a wild   ice cream eater and an assortment of members of  the lunatic fringe.

Marisol by Rivera at the artistic home

The scenes are impressive as is the acting especially by Marta Evans, Brandon Thompson and Leslie Ann Sheppard. The atmosphere of gloom and the dark tone can still garner some humor but the all around bleakness suggests the struggle between good and evil isn’t a walk in the park. Is Rivera’s  doomsday scenario inevitable or merely his dark pessimism?  See this amazingly powerful drama and judge for yourself. This theatrical event will chill you to your bones! Who would believe that angels can get so crazy? Will we be turned into salt? Who knows? Is this the brave new world we hear so much about?

I can’t remember when I was so moved by a show as I was by the hauntingly visceral production of Marisol. This show begs to be seen. The power of the live theatre experience is well represented with The Artistic Home’s Marisol.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: June 20, 2011

For full show information, go to the Marisol page at TheatreinChicago.

At The Artistic  Home, 3914 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL, www.theartistichome.org, tickets $28, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 5 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through July 31, 2011