Villanova Theatre welcomes back renowned Philadelphia theatre artist James Ijames to direct José Rivera's Marisol. This fierce fantasia set in post-apocalyptic New York is a surreal and timely piece that has been dubbed an "anti-apathy" play. In our modern world of political upheaval and existential doubt, Marisol inspires audiences to wake up and change the world around them, running November 8-20 at Villanova Theatre.
José Rivera transports audiences into a dark, dystopian world that is at once familiar and strange. Brooklyn is a war zone, coffee is extinct, the moon has disappeared, and Angels are trading in their wings for machine guns. As a celestial battle against an old and senile God brews in heaven, the rebellion spills into New York City. Without the protection of her Guardian Angel, Marisol Perez begins a surreal journey through the chaos of a crumbling world to find her way home. Met by vagrants and vagabonds at every turn, she must salvage what hope remains amidst the rubble of the apocalypse.
Inspired by writers like novelist Gabriel García Márquez and playwright Sam Shepard, José Rivera constructed Marisol weaving together elements of magical realism with his real-world experiences of living in New York City in the 1990's. Although written over two decades ago - before the massive social changes arising from the September 11 attacks and subsequent American "war on terror" -- the play remains relevant to audiences in 2016, which is one of the many reasons Ijames chose to direct this challenging and incisive piece.
Although the play explores serious subjects such as terrorism, political abuse, and homelessness, Marisol is infused with comic turns that keep the audience "laughing right through the misery" (Los Angeles Times). Filled with extravagant characters, startling encounters, and a storyline as whimsical as it is dire, Marisol contains equal parts of humor and heartbreak. The juxtaposition of these two elements allows audiences to glimpse the world around them with fresh eyes, questioning issues of social justice, identity, and morality alongside the play's heroine. The catastrophic world of Marisol serves as a cautionary tale; according to Ijames,"This play is about what happens when we're concerned about the wrong things."
"We're doing the play right now because the world is crazy," he explains. "My increasing anxiety surrounding getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast is the fire underneath me propelling me to do Marisol. This play is Rivera's 1995 -- his emotional expression of anxiety, fear, and anticipation -- but it feels like it was written yesterday, and is communicating things that are going to hit people in the here and now."
Inspired by the political discontent, upheaval, and activism expressed in the script, Ijames seeks to match Rivera's call to action. When he was writing the play Rivera explained, "This is the first play I've written with an eye on the next generation. We need to find new heroes and new myths for our society -- the old ones just aren't working." Marisol becomes a new hero for a new time, and audiences today are the next generation Rivera crafted this play for. As audiences traverse the broken landscape of New York, he hopes that audiences will leave wondering "what can I do to change the world?"
Marisol runs at Villanova Theatre from November 8-20th, 2016. Following the performance on Thursday, November 17th Villanova Theatre will host Speaker's Night featuring the insights of Dr. Raúl Diego Rivera Hernández (see full biographical information below), as well as those of the production's director and dramaturg.
Villanova Theatre is located on the Villanova University campus in Vasey Hall (at Lancaster & Ithan Aves.). Performances will be held Tuesdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets run $21-$25, with discounts available for seniors, students, M.A. in Theatre alumni, and groups. Tickets may be purchased at the Villanova Theatre Box Office (M-S, 12 -5 p.m.) in person, by phone: (610) 519-7474, or online at www.villanovatheatre.org.