“Marisol,” by José Rivera, is a fever-dream of a play. It is as if the normal world has lost its moorings, or mind, and people, systems, institutions are breaking down under the strain. It is a world on the edge of being hopelessly lost. Rivera was the first Puerto Rican writer nominated for an Academy Award for ‘The Motorcycle Diaries.”
Written in 1992, the play feels startling relevant in 2020.
Into this scenario, we are introduced to Marisol, a young Latina who works in Manhattan and lives in the Bronx on 180th Street. Her world is becoming more and more disordered by the day, in ways both large and small. The Moon is missing, coffee is extinct, cows are producing salty milk, and going over your credit card limit can land you in a secret Government prison in Brooklyn, to name just a few. We hear a lot about angels. A man gets pregnant. The homeless are being burned by street gangs. And evidently the poles of the earth have shifted. It’s a lot to take in and make sense of.
Marisol has faith in God, humanity, and the promise of life, even as around her, people are succumbing to madness and brutality. It’s a heavy lift, but one that the actress playing Marisol, Briyanna “Daisy” Rusley, handles heroically. Her increasingly desperate attempts to stay true to her values give her a nobility and fragility at once.
Written in 1992, the play feels startling relevant in 2020. With so much seeming to crumble around us, this work hits nerves. It’s also beautifully poetic in long stretches — the language searching for a way to find and describe beauty in the midst of devastation.
The other characters include “Man with Golf Club, Man with Ice Cream Cone” (James Gallom); “Angel” (Jade Jones); “June, Skinhead” (Hannah Oduro-Kana); “Lenny” (Martin Alexander Smith); “Man with Scar Tissue” (Preston Coleman — fabulous make-up job); “Woman in Furs, Ensemble (Voice 1)” (Brianna Morrison); “Ensemble (Voice 2)” (Kendall Jones); and “Ensemble (Voice 3), Radio Announcer, Subway Announcer” (Antonio Peace).
Gallom and Smith, in particular, do some really intuitive work with their characters. They find a complex humanity in them.
“Marisol” is directed for streaming by Reggie Phoenix and the technical director is John-Robert Schroyer. While it worked well on socially-distanced streaming, this play begs for a full stage treatment.
It’s a kaleidoscope of a play and demands your attention. Patrons who prefer something more linear may be confused. But it beautifully conveys the terror of free-falling out of control and will give you much to think about.
Running Time: One hour and 50 minutes without intermission.
Show Advisory: Due to Language, violence, and mature Themes, MA for mature audiences.
“Marisol” runs through November 7, 2020 (Friday, November 6 and Saturdays, October 31 and November 7 at 11:30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm, 5:30pm, 7:30pm, 9:30pm, and 11:30 pm) in a virtual environment, presented by by Theatre Morgan. For more information, please click here.