Cell deep

Kiss of the Spider Woman

Gabriel Montoya as Valentín (left); Daniel W. Slauson as Molina (right).

Gabriel Montoya as Valentín (left); Daniel W. Slauson as Molina (right).

Rated 5.0

Luis Molina and Valentín Arregui met under less than savory circumstances.

Luis, a homosexual, has been found guilty of immoral behavior. Valentín is a political prisoner, being punished and tortured for his Marxist beliefs. As different as day and night, the two spend day after endless day locked in their dark, barren cell, attempting to find some string of hope to keep them going.

As the days turn to weeks, the two men find a way to peacefully coexist, although tempers flare and emotions run high. “Why are you like that, Molina?” Valentín yells. “You’re a man, act like one!”

Luis spends the evenings recounting the twists and turns of romantic Hollywood films he’s seen years before. The plot of one such film weaves its way through the tale of the two prisoners. While Valentín prefers to keep his mind on the fight against oppression and studying from a tattered book, he finds himself being slowly woven into the rich tapestry of the tales Luis has been retelling.

Kiss of the Spider Woman is the latest in a string of remarkably well done and daring shows hosted by the Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre. Having recently housed such successes as Bash!, Grace and Glorie and a phenomenal one-man production of An Evening with John Wilkes Booth, the Thistle Dew is quickly becoming known for its willingness to host innovative and controversial productions.

The production, directed by Elly award-winning actor and director Vada Russell (The Cripple of Inishmaan, Suddenly Last Summer, Dance Naked in the Universe) and produced by Stephen Vargo (True West, A Life in the Theatre, Bash!) uses the intimacy of the Thistle Dew stage to bring the audience into a tiny cell with the two characters. Daniel W. Slauson (Angels in America, The Music Man, Torch Song Trilogy) stars as Molina. Slauson surpasses John Hurt’s performance in the 1985 film version, carving new dimensions into the role and making it his own.

In the role of Valentín is Gabriel Montoya (True West, Acts Unbecoming a Golem, Gurley). While Montoya has a tendency to race through his lines and miss the interpersonal connection so important in scenes with this level of intensity, he nonetheless pulls off an incredible performance, making Kiss of the Spider Woman yet another in a line of recent gems in Sacramento theater. As the two men learn that they’re not as different as they thought they first were, and then form a bond of comfort and strength, the audience is reminded of the connection and need for one another that is the basic fiber of humanity.