Tarantula” is a surreal, absurd play about the world’s richest woman in her final days, and the two pretty young men she’s captured in her web with her money and power. Outstanding set design and live sitar music enliven and almost outshine the entertaining but meandering script.
On her island retreat, a comically pathetic “five-and-dime heiress” along the lines of Barbara Hutton leads a wealthy, wretched life filled with opium, memoirs and boy toys. She lives in a timeless world where past and present become one.
The first act is a colorful, comical romp surrounding a three-way power play. But the second act doesn’t move the story or characters anywhere they haven’t been (mainly dressing or undressing for bed).
The theme and mood of “Tarantula” are reminiscent of Luis Bunuel and Andy Warhol films of the late ’60s and early ’70s depicting the greed of those who have and those who want.
The princess (as she calls herself), Cat Pastor (Tina Preston), looks like Marie Antoinette in ivory antique dresses and a powdered wig. Her topknot and vocal inflections recall Katharine Hepburn’s later years. Preston plays a woman much older than herself with grace and consistency.
The characters of the two male leads, Rock the chauffeur (Dan Bell) and Tip the beach bum (Jason Reed), are not as well developed as the physiques they flaunt — they’re basically Tennessee Williams cliches. Their antagonism for one another doesn’t quite get off the ground. Bell’s character does show passing flashes of tenderness, while Reed maintains the persona of a dumb, money-hungry hunk.
The superb set design by Andy Daley uses gauze-like drapings to create a surreal image of the cobwebs of a dream-like state. The live music by Gernot Blume is relaxing and evocative.