Press: "Last Chance: Pucker up for a powerful 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' at Brown" by Molly Lederer, Providence Monthly

November 9, 2012

From an article in Providence Monthly: "It opened last weekend and closes this weekend, which means you still have three chances to get there. Take our advice and buy a ticket posthaste to Brown University’s irresistible Kiss of the Spider Woman. The Tony Award-winning musical, with book by Terrence McNally and music by Kander and Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret), invites you to step inside a dank, dirty, dangerous prison – and escape with your cellmates to a fantasy world of spotlights, sequins and song.

The dynamic Evan Strouss plays a pitch-perfect Molina, the inmate who hides deep-seated fears in flamboyance. It takes awhile for the gruff Valentin, a political prisoner played by big-voiced Teng Yang, to accept his offer of friendship. The pair eventually bonds over classic film – especially the Technicolor magic of a screen siren named Aurora, played by Madeleine Heil. In every glance and gesture, showstopper Heil projects glamour, beauty and mystery. As the men grow closer and Aurora’s presence grows more ominous, Heil becomes ever more mesmerizing. 

The band packs a punch from start to finish under the musical direction of Adria Barbosa. Some voices in the cast are stronger than others, especially in the lower register, but the overall effect is stirring. Ambitious choreography by Taavon Gamble and tango choreography by Brandon Shaw require high energy from the ensemble, which delivers it ten-fold. Also take note of Ron Cesario’s evocative, elaborate costumes (ignore the wigs) and Michael McGarty’s stark yet expansive set, placing the band at the center. 

Gird yourself, as the setting of Kiss of the Spider Woman portends something other than a Hollywood ending. The musical draws elements from Manuel Puig’s dark 1976 novel, which focused on intimacy, escapism, torture and death in an Argentine prison. But, as presented by the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies and Sock & Buskin, directed with dexterity by Marcus Gardley, and performed with exuberance by a talented cast and band, this Kiss will leave you breathless."