REVIEW OF ROUNDABOUT THEATRE PRODUCTION IN NEW YORK
The Rose Tattoo, TennesseeWilliams’ 1950 drama has received a disappointing production by the RoundaboutTheatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre in New York. It boasts ofhaving the star-power attraction of Marisa Tomei in the role of Serafina DelleRose. According to Williams, she is a plump little Italian living in a villagepopulated mostly by Sicilians along the Gulf Coast between New Orleans andMobile.
The politest thing one can say is that she is simply miscast in therole. Ms Tomei is neither small nor plump. She is a beautiful woman who wouldnever settle for a nobody like Alvano (Emun Elliott) after the death of herhusband. She idolizes her husband Rosario and is deeply in love with him whileworshipping the Madonna and being very superstitious. We never see her husbandbut he turns out to have been working for criminals and is killed. What’sworse, Serafina’s idol had a mistress in the village. Everybody knew about itexcept her.
Tomei can do the histrionics that are part of her character but she canonly manage an atrocious Italian accent that added with her looks moves heraway from the Serafina of the play.
Elliott is even worse as Alvano Mangiacavallo, the truck driver who, asI said, is attracted to Serafina after she becomes a widow. He is a buffoon asSerafina describes him, but what kind of a buffoon? Elliott is an American whotries to hide his native accent and impose an Italian inflection on his speech.He fails miserably and the character is left hanging between being an Americanwith a bad Italian accent or an Italian who is trying to speak proper English.
Ella Rubin as Serafina’s 15-year old daughterRosa and Burke Swanson as her boyfriend Jack are refreshingly fine in theirroles. The women of the villagewho drop by Serafina’s place are necessary minor characters. Tina Benko makes avery alluring Estelle Hohengarten, the blonde with whom Rosario has an affairuntil his untimely death. She orders a shirt from the seamstress Serafina togive to someone who turns out to be her lover who happens to be none other thanRosario, Serafina’s husband.
Director Trip Cullman has done away with a number of characters andscenes from the play and there is no issue with that.
The set designed by Mark Wendland and the video projection designed by Lucy Mackinnon are quite dramatic. Serafina’shouse backs to the Gulf with the water and wavesvisible on all three sides of the stage. The surging waves, no doubt symbolicof Serafina’s and Alvaro’s rising passion are marvelous with the small caveat thaton the day I saw the performance they were not working very well. And I am notsure about the crowd of plastic flamingos on the edge of the water.
Cullman adds some songs and music by Fitz Patton which did nothing forthe production.
The Rose Tattoo hasa great deal of humor and we did get a few laughs but the production was spottyand never managed to bring out the comedy and the passion coherently andconvincingly. A disappointing night at the theatre.
The Rose Tattoo by TennesseeWilliams in a production by Roundabout Theatre Company continues until December8, 2019 at the American AirlinesTheatre, 227West 42nd Street, New York, N.Y. https://www.roundabouttheatre.org/