Directed by Greg Vinkler
Produced by Shattered Globe Theatre
At Theater Wit, Chicago
Magnificent production of a classic Williams’ play awaits
Tennessee Williams was inspired by his longtime partner Frank Melo, himself Sicilian, and their trips to that unique Italian island, resulting in his unique play –The Rose Tattoo. It is a special blend of comedy, emotional depth, and soaring lyricism featuring Williams’ haunting view of loneliness and personal loss. Set in a Louisiana Coastal town between New Orleans and Mobile, we meet Serafina (Eileen Niccolai in a tour de force performance) as the Sicilian matriarch who sews dresses and cares for her husband, a truck driver and small-time hood, and her 15 year old daughter Rosa. She is surrounded by gossiping neighbors eager for news that will keep their boring small town life interesting. Serafina’s intensity and passion make her worth gossiping about.
When her husband dies of a gunshot while driving his truck, Sarafinia’s inability to cope with her loss leads her to cremate him (against Catholic Church rules) so he can always be with her in a gold urn next to her statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When the neighbors try to tell her that her husband was a womanizer, she is in total denial and erupts in high emotions. Serfinia is devout yet she adheres to Sicilian myths and folk lore, as her old passions and her delusional hope that somehow her man’s memory can make time stand still play out turning her into an recluse. She tries to suffocate her 15 year old daughter Rosa (Daniela Collucci) from socializing at her high school. But Rosa, newly discovering boys, meets an honorable sailor Jack (Drew Schad). Serafinia allows Rosa to date Jack after she gets him to swear he’ll honor her innocence before the Virgin’s shrine.
Serafinia continues to mourn her loss as she becomes a shut-in wearing only a slip and underclothing. When a truck driver, Alvaro Mangiacavallo (the charming buffo Nic Grelli) ends up at her door, the earthy eroticism between the two wounded souls is unleashed in a series of comic, sensual, and haunting scenes. These two Italians are dramatic and quite impulsive characters who develop an operatic relationship (sans the music). Her seductive courtship by the lonely truck driver, who Serafinia refers to as: “My husband’s body—with the head of a clown” continues ending up with her feeling that , once again, she has a rose tattoo on her chest, she is finally delivered from her past memories and grief. Serifinia now possesses hope for her future.
Sarah Ross’ cut-away house set, with Sarah Jo White’s 1950’s costumes work to enrich this quaint environment that blends Sicilian and Southern cultures effectively. But what makes this drama special is the emotionally rich acting by Eileen Niccolai as the frustrated and crippled by her loss Serifina. Niccolia gives one of the strongest and honest performances seen on a Chicago stage in ages. She is magnificent, vulnerable and sensual. Her chemistry with Nic Grelli, who is charming, innocent and honest, is touching and most believable.
A well staged drama, nicely directed by Greg Vinkler, containing a worthy Tennessee Williams script with superb acting equals a wonderful night of theatre. The Rose Tattoo is a major theatrical experience and a “must see” evening.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 18, 2015
For more info checkout The Rose Tattoo page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit, 1229 W.Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 7730975-8150, www.theaterwit.org, tickets $33, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at3pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through February 28, 2015