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What Light. What Possibilities. What Hope
Marisol is written by José Rivera, a Puerto Rican playwright, in 1992. The magic realism play provides a unique perspective on plenty of spiritual and social issues that remain important even today (“Dramaturg’s Note”). Rivera looked at the troubles of homelessness, social disorder and inequality, as well as identity loss, from a poetic point of view and placed them in the setting of apocalyptic New York, in the world of a dying universe, which angels try to revive with the blood of their senile God (Rivera 16). Beth Kattelman visualized and directed Marisol at… on… The committed performances of the actors, as well as successful choices in staging and design, contributed to the success of this new production.
Design Element: Scenery
Staging is an essential element of storytelling in drama. Space and visual modes have a semiotic meaning, and their appropriate use is core to the story’s integrity (Elam 6). It is possible to say that the production’s scenic designer, Justin A. Miller, managed to convey plenty of complex symbolic messages implied by Rivera through a simplified, yet sharpened scene of New York in ruins and Marisol’s bedroom. A bed surrounded by a haze of purple light, brick walls, and mesh fences is placed right in the center of the stage. In this way, the set provokes the sense of isolation, insecurity, and loneliness, which Marisol experiences when living in the large city. At the same time, it demonstrates how the ruination that takes place in Rivera’s New York penetrates in the character’s private space. Thus, it is possible to say that through the scenery design the production team managed to transmit a surreal mood of the play and also refer to symbolic implications.
Staging Moment: An Actor’s Performance
In the production, Marisol is played by Jasmine Michele Smith. The actress’s expressive and eloquent manner of performance made it clear that she had an insight into her character’s psyche, and the human behavior as such − she depicted Marisol as a vulnerable and soft young woman who, influenced by circumstances, stepped on the path of transformation and self-revelation and ultimately turned into a real hero. Smith’s gestures, speech, and movements had a natural flow and were very convincing. Her work certainly helped captivate the audience and hold their attention.
Issues of Diversity
The theme of ethnic diversity and identity is among the central in the play. Marisol is a young and attractive Puerto Rican woman who seems to forget her cultural heritage. In the first act, she is assimilated in New York but not really accepted there completely. However, in the second act, she starts to acknowledge her Puerto Rican identity. The memories of the childhood are revived in time of confusion and challenges faced by her in the streets of the ruined city. Talking to Man with Scar Tissue she began recalling the basic things from her past and then ultimately realized her new self, in which her ethnicity and culture are core elements. It is possible to say that the acknowledgment of ethnic identity served for Marisol as a starting point for becoming a better person, helped her be freed from external pressures, and inner insecurities.
The directing, design and staging decision, actors, and the work of the team as a whole largely contributed to the success of the production. Rivera’s play is full of meaning, and the given performance conveyed it to a large extent. The production provokes thoughts of personal and ethnic identity, human relationships, resilience, and hope for better. In the final scene, when the revolution ultimately came to an end, and the universe was given a new life, Marisol says “What light. What possibilities. What hope” (Rivera 68). It is important to note that this win was possible only because Marisol and others united to resist the injustice and other threats to human life and dignity. This inspiring idea that people can unite despite their differences and past conflicts to make the world a better place constitutes the essence of this play.
“Dramaturg’s Note.” Dramatist’s Play Service, 2017.
Elam, Pierre. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. Methuen & Co, 1988.
Rivera, José. Marisol and Other Plays. Theater Communication Group, 1997.