The Lyric Stage’s powerful musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, proves escape can take many forms. Much like Kander and Ebb’s previous works such as Chicago and Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman delves into equal parts fantasy through lavish dance numbers and brutal reality as two very different men are cellmates in a Latin American prison. Directed and choreographed skillfully by Rachel Bertone, Kiss of the Spider Woman is not just a gripping tale about surviving under profoundly dark circumstances, but an emotional journey, keeping the audience guessing to each character’s complex motives.
What makes this show particularly fascinating is Bertone’s talent for depicting mounting tension, evident between each character who all share some sort of connection. Lisa Yuen embodies the Spider Woman/Aurora with dark humor and beguiling charm, a presence who sees and knows all as she proclaims, I Do Miracles. Her haunting vocals are a magnetic presence as she slinks onstage. Her dazzling, alluring costumes vary from a shimmering, translucent gown to a bright, multi-colored Bird of Paradise.
Portraying the two cellmates are Eddy Cavazos as imaginative, openly gay window dresser Molina and Taavon Gamble as gruff revolutionary Valentin. Dressed in a bright scarf and silk robe, Molina is often sinking into his own vivid imagination recalling his favorite film star, Aurora (Lisa Yuen). Cavazos portrays Molina as exceedingly optimistic, vain, and wildly dramatic. However, with an occasional far off glance or a brief, mournful smile, Cavazos also reveals Molina’s palpable loneliness, wearing his heart on his sleeve. He and Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda as Molina’s cherished mother share sweet moments, especially during the number, Dear One and You Can Never Shame Me.
Taavon Gamble is also impressive as proud, indignant revolutionary Valentin, a man of few words. His stirring number, The Day After That, offers immense insight into Valentin’s visceral strength. Cavazos and Gamble’s scenes together are riveting, both delivering shrewd and gritty performances.
Musically directed by Dan Rodriguez featuring songs ranging from haunting to catchy, Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider Woman continues at the Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, October 7. Click here for tickets and more information. Subscriptions and dinner packages are also available. Follow The Lyric Stage on Twitter and Facebook for their upcoming productions and more.