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Broadway Review: “The Rose Tattoo” at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway (Through Sunday December 8, 2019)

Broadway Review: “The Rose Tattoo” at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway (Through Sunday December 8, 2019)
Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Trip Cullman
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Following in the footsteps of Maureen Stapleton in the original and first revival and Mercedes Ruehl featured in the second revival on Broadway comes Marisa Tomei as Serafina Delle Rose in the current production of “The Rose Tattoo” at Roundabout American Airlines Theatre. This rare tragic comedy by Tennessee Williams about a heartbroken, widowed, Italian American who shuts herself off to love and living, expecting her daughter to do the same, is a roller coaster of emotion illustrating the conflicts between faith, loss, and desire. Rooted deep in Italian tradition and Roman Catholic credence, the play gives Williams the utmost opportunity to showcase his poetic and passionate sensibility with a rare comedic flair.

This is a livelier production than its predecessors but that is an advantage allowing the two-and-a-half-hour revival to fly by at a very rapid pace without eradicating the tragic undertones. In this revival director Trip Cullman has taken a slightly new approach, not getting bogged down by the melodramatic grief that Serafina is experiencing but rather focusing on the folly of the situation, which is perpetrated by Sicilian tradition and religious persuasion. Her bereavement should have ended long ago, but her guilt, friends, faith, and surroundings prevent her from moving on and she fears that her daughter might experience the same punishment and torment, if she disregards the moral doctrine of the church.

In a star turn Ms. Tomei infuses her character with an infectious charm, capturing all the passion and power needed to brand Serafina as one of Williams’ unforgettable delusional women and simultaneously constructs a comedic demeanor that is endearing. The first act is mostly exposition and a set up for what is to follow, but is filled with imaginative characters such as Assunta (a somber yet intense Carolyn Mignini) the local soothsayer and apothecary, The Strega (an animated Constance Schulman), the irritable witch with an evil eye and Estelle Hohengarten (a cold and cutting Tina Benko) as a seductive mistress. It is in the second act when the fireworks really start to ignite when Serafina meets Alvaro (a charming and zealous Emun Elliott), and daughter Rosa (a solid and convincing Ella Rubin) brings home her heartthrob Jack (a sensitive Burke Swanson). The chemistry between Tomei and Elliott is remarkable, with each of them never wasting a moment to solidify their attraction and take advantage of the comedy that surrounds their passion.

The production is not perfect with some equivocal elements, one of which is the decision of the sparse set design of Mark Wendland with a prodigious flock of plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments engulfing the background. The Italian accents are fine, but the southern accents often fluctuate. Although the music by Jason Michael Webb is quite atmospheric. it seems to be too somber and repetitive. On the other hand lighting by Ben Stanton creates moody pictures that capture the Gulf Coast along with vivid panoramic projections of the sea by Lucy Mackinnon. It is a smart revival that is fresh and certainly highlights the wonderful and skillful performances of Ms. Tomei and Mr. Elliott who ensure a great evening of entertainment.


“The Rose Tattoo” stars Cassie Beck, Alexander Bello, Tina Benko, Andréa Burns, Susan Cella, Emun Elliott, Paige Gilbert, Greg Hildreth, Isabella Iannelli, Jacob Michael Laval, Ellyn Marie Marsh, Carolyn Mignini, Portia, Ella Rubin, Jennifer Sánchez, Constance Shulman, Burke Swanson, and Marisa Tomei.

The design team includes Mark Wendland (sets), Clint Ramos (costumes), Ben Stanton (lights), Fitz Patton (original music & sound), and Lucy Mackinnon (projections).

“The Rose Tattoo” runs at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway (227 West 42nd Street) Through Sunday December 8, 2019 on the following performance schedule: Tuesdays at 7:00 pm., Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m. with Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3:00 p.m. Tickets for “The Rose Tattoo” are available by calling 212-719-1300 or online at Ticket prices range from $59-$159. Running time is 2 hours 30 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.

Photo: Emun Elliott and Marisa Tomei in “The Rose Tattoo” at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway. Credit: Joan Marcus.
Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, October 31, 2019