Spider Woman: a kiss of death
by John Hall
Kiss of the Spider Woman touches the heart, enthralls the mind, and exemplifies acting at its best. During its two and a half hour duration, it examines conditions inside a prison located in a fascist Latin American nation, it tackles the nature of love and how it grows, and it enfolds the audience amidst the experiences and life of Luis Molina, the main focus of the play.
Molina is a gay prisoner who was entranced in his youth by a series of movies made by Aurora, a beautiful, seductive actress. Lonely, without love, and without a friend, Molina uses what he remembers of her movies to help himself stay sane. However, his life changes when he receives a cellmate, Valentin, a Communist rebel who is being held indefinitely for "questioning". Through his interactions with Valentin, Molina not only finds love and friendship, but also self-respect and honor. However, thoughout the play, visions of the Spider Woman, a temptress whose kiss is death, haunt Molina. At the climax of his life, these visions and new-found love transform Molina... but to say how would spoil the plot.
Howard McGillin plays Molina, and his interpretation is witty, humorous, and deeply emotional. McGillin makes Molina more than a believable character - he makes Molina live and breathe on stage. Brian Mitchell's Valentin is hearty, macho, and idealistic, yet with a hidden softness that is only gradually displayed. His songs are strong, sincere, and stirring. Vanessa Williams as Aurora/Spider Woman whips out an energetic performance. Although she is indeed seductive and alluring in both her roles, Williams is given undue credit in some circles as being the star of the show. Both McGillin and Mitchell's performances are far more striking and deserve more attention.
Kiss of the Spider Woman is playing at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York City. Call the Broadway Line at (212) 563-2929 for show times and theatre location.

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