Marisol

Throughout Jose Rivera’s “Marisol,” the titular character, played by Ana Miramontes (right) in the UA Department of Theatre’s production, must fight to survive in a world thrown into chaos by a war between God with his heavenly hosts and an army of fallen angels. She relies on tenuous alliances with characters including Angel, played by Tori Cooper (left).

In the third show of the UA Department of Theatre’s season, a woman clings to the few shreds of normalcy left in her life as the world around her devolves into a nightmare.

"Marisol," by Jose Rivera, tells the story of the titular character and her fight for survival and sanity in a world nearly lost to despair and chaos amid a war between God and fallen angels.

Marisol, played by Ana Miramontes, a theatre performance graduate student, is a woman struggling to survive in a world of extremes, and Miramontes’ performance sells her story well. Marisol spends the show scrambling for a way out of the horror in which she lives, adjusting her alliances as needed to survive.

One of her most fickle allies is Lenny, played by Jordan Williams, a theatre performance graduate student. Lenny is a troubled man who is somehow still treated as a trusted figure after attempting to sexually assault Marisol. To Williams’ credit, he gives an honest performance that taps into the surreal world in which his character exists.

One standout performance is that of Grace Taylor, a theatre performance graduate student who plays June. Despite the character’s inconsistent turns from being overly protective of Marisol in one scene to dangerously inconsiderate in the next, Taylor makes the absurd believable by illustrating June’s inability to grapple with reality. Another notable performance is that of Tori Cooper, a junior majoring in theatre, who conveys just as much emotion in silence as in speech as she portrays the character Angel.

“Marisol” is surreal in the vein of Samuel Beckett, with some events and decisions seeming to have little reason or significance. While this adds to the characters’ misery, it also tends to derail the plot’s direction, creating a maze for the audience to sort out. Another of the show’s drawbacks is that its cataclysmic events occur so frequently but are rarely consistent, so they have diminishing returns.

With the exception of impressive displays at the play’s very beginning and end, the lighting design of UA Theatre’s production appears static and almost lifeless. Most of the second act, for example, takes place under a single wash of white light.

The other technical aspects of the show more than make up for that deficiency, though. When the lighting team is trying, its design beautifully captures the hopelessness of the tale. The sound design completely immerses the audience into the world of the play. The set expertly imbues its more chaotic elements with religious themes through the use of candles, columns and crosses strewn across the stage. The set design also includes two projections on the upstage wall, one stylized as a stained glass window, which proves to be an inspired choice.

While certainly not light or casual viewing, the UA Department of Theatre’s discomforting production of “Marisol” is well worth the watch in order to understand the true pain that can come from feeling alone and powerless in a cruel world.

“Marisol” runs through Dec. 5 at Nadine Baum Studios on Spring Street. Tickets are free but must be reserved on the UA Theatre website.

“Marisol” graphically depicts scenes of sexual and physical violence, so viewer discretion is advised.

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