Kiss of the Spider Woman

The actors work with subtle skill, and the director keeps up the tension


Through Sept. 17

Tickets $22-34


New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Oak), S.F.

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Manuel Puig's sensual tale of love and political upheaval follows Molina, a homosexual window dresser, stuck in a Latin American jail with Valentin, a stoic, committed activist. Molina transcends his bleak surroundings by recalling his favorite romantic movies in great detail, while Valentin clings to his waning convictions and chides his flamboyant cellmate by stating, "Escaping from reality like you do is like a vice." It's a treat to watch this odd couple's philosophical and political discussions slowly unravel into something resembling intimacy. The actors handle Allan Baker's excellent translation's rich poetic dialogue with subtle skill, and the director sustains a compelling, palpable tension throughout the production. Bruce Walters and Ted Crimy's design work transforms the NCTC's small space into a convincingly gritty prison and a platform for Molina's flights of fancy. The real threat in Kiss of the Spider Woman doesn't come from the politicians, the military, or the police, but from the terrifying, naked need of loneliness and the alternate dilemma of revealing one's faults and failings to a lover. Puig said in a 1979 interview, "Our only compromise is with the individual, personal truth." This is a sure-handed production of a play that refuses to compromise.

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