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Legend has it that when Tennessee Williams’ play The Rose Tattoo was first produced in Ireland during the 50s – the director was arrested for lewdness. Without spoiling much, the characters’ reaction to a certain gold-foiled prop provides a major context for the time period in which this piece was written.
When bubbly Serafina (Eileen Niccolai) loses the love of her life, she shuns herself and her teenage daughter from the world in mourning. A once loving household becomes a neverending funeral leaving us to ponder the power of grief. Like any Williams play, this one builds slowly toward a satisfying flow of revelations.
The Rose Tattoo isn’t nearly as produced as many of his other well-known works. Passionate Serafina is bit more optimistic than doomed and desperate Stella DuBois, making this play more of a romance than a tragedy.
Eileen Niccolai is featured in nearly every second and takes full advantage of her ample airtime. Her captivating portrayal of Italian immigrant Serafina is hysterical in parts, electrifying in others but always genuine. Supporting her performance is Daniela Colluci as her daughter Rosa who turns from an innocent child into a woman. Nic Grelli as Mangiacavallo (Serafian’s mysterious lover) is both seductive and clownish – an enticing combination.
The themes may not be as obvious as some of his other pieces, but the suppression of sexual desire seems to be the main takeaway here. A not-so-ironic idea considering this play was written by an openly homosexual author in a closeted time.
Shattered Globe hits it out of the park in both casting and production, taking a lesser produced classic and keeping it relevant. Director Greg Vinkler seems to know which scenes to turn up the volume and when to hold back and let Williams’ poetry take over. (John J. Accrocco)
The Rose Tattoo at Shattered Globe Theatre – Theatre Wit 1229 W Belmont Ave. Through February 15th