×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘The Rose Tattoo’ Starring Marisa Tomei

Oscar winner Tomei plays one of Tennessee Williams’s enduring women.

With:
Cassie Beck, Alexander Bello, Tina Benko, Andrea Burns, Susan Cella, Emun Elliott, Paige Gilbert, Greg Hildreth, Isabella Iannelli, Jacob Michael Laval, Ellyn Marie Marsh, Carolyn Mignini, Portia, Ella Rubin, Jennifer Sanchez, Constance Shulman, Burke Swanson, Marisa Tomei.

2 hours 25 minutes

“The Rose Tattoo” is what happens when a poet writes a comedy — something strange, but kind of lovely. The same might be said of director Trip Cullman’s production: Strange, if not exactly lovely. Even Marisa Tomei, so physically delicate and expressively refined, seems an odd choice to play the lusty and passionate protagonist, Serafina Delle Rose. She, too, is kind of lovely — if lost.

Ranks of pink flamingoes marching into the sunset at the back of the stage are the first sign that this won’t be a conventional reading of Williams’s bittersweet play about an Italian widow who has embraced, like some fateful lover, her all-consuming grief over her husband’s death.

The doors and walls and windows of Serafina’s little cottage on the Gulf Coast are mere suggestions in Mark Wendland’s theoretical set, and the days seem to confine themselves to what Ben Stanton’s lighting design renders as eternal dusk. The only hint of unforced poetry is a chorus of women dressed in black and singing mournful Italian songs, as unnoticed and uncalled-for as those pink flamingoes, but strangely moving.

When her beloved husband is lost at sea, Serafina is inconsolable, even when another grieving woman, Estelle Hohengarten (Tina Benko) reveals herself to be his mistress. For the next three years, Serafina prays at her household shrine to the Virgin Mother (the stacked-up votive candles are a nice touch), awaiting a sign that she can return to life. Tomei is best in these quiet moments, torn between crushing grief and pulsing life — and wearing her conflicted feelings like a hairshirt.

Physically, the actress’ slender frame and refined features suggest little of Serafina’s earthy presence, despite the fact that costumer Clint Ramos has draped her in unflattering 1950s-era weeds and clodhopper shoes. We’ll just have to take it on faith that the widow Delle Rose — a dressmaker, no less — is incapable of running up a few pretty frocks on her nicely humming sewing machine.

Emun Elliott gives the show a shot of adrenaline when he shows up as the warm-hearted if absurdly named Alvaro Mangiacavallo. In literal translation, that means “eat a horse” and it comes close to being an ethnic slur. But while a dialect coach is credited in the program, the real slurs are the thuggish Italian accents. (If everyone is supposedly speaking in plain English, what’s with all the stereotypical inflections?)

Despite a huge cast of characters, this is a very slender play — more a mood piece, really — and far from the playwright’s best. Without any solid scene setting, the minimalist production provides little environmental support. In fact, the bare-boned set seems to be an actual hazard, because it forces the performers to exit down a sharply raked ramp — and then to duck at the last minute, lest they bump their heads. Theater people are such pros, they gladly suffer for their art. But this is above and beyond the call of duty.

Popular on Variety

Broadway Review: 'The Rose Tattoo' Starring Marisa Tomei

American Airlines Theater; 723 seats; $299 top. Opened Oct. 15, 2019. Reviewed Oct. 11. Running time: TWO HOURS, 25 MIN.

Production: A Roundabout Theater Company presentation of the Williamstown Theater Festival production of a play in two acts by Tennessee Williams.

Creative: Directed by Trip Cullman. Sets, Mark Wendland; costumes, Clint Ramos; lighting, Ben Stanton, original music & sound, Fitz Patton; projections, Lucy Mackinnon; production stage manager, Arabella Powell.

Cast: Cassie Beck, Alexander Bello, Tina Benko, Andrea Burns, Susan Cella, Emun Elliott, Paige Gilbert, Greg Hildreth, Isabella Iannelli, Jacob Michael Laval, Ellyn Marie Marsh, Carolyn Mignini, Portia, Ella Rubin, Jennifer Sanchez, Constance Shulman, Burke Swanson, Marisa Tomei.

More Legit

  • Jonathan Groff

    Listen: Jonathan Groff Knows He's a Spitter

    If you’ve seen “Little Shop of Horrors” — the starry revival headlined by Jonathan Groff in a small Off Broadway theater — you probably noticed that Groff spits a lot when he speaks onstage. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s been a spitter as long as he can remember, but “Little Shop” [...]

  • Key Largo

    L.A. Theater Review: Andy Garcia in 'Key Largo'

    Would “Casablanca” make a good play? Guess what: It was first produced on stage as “Everybody Comes to Rick’s.” How about “Key Largo,” the black-and-white Bogie-and-Bacall vehicle in which a handful of misfits find themselves trapped in a South Florida hotel while a hurricane rages outside? In fact, the 1948 John Huston film was adapted [...]

  • Sophia Anne Caruso and Alex Brightman'Beetlejuice'

    How 'Beetlejuice: The Musical' Became a Broadway Turnaround Story

    Christopher Kuczewski is what you’d call a Netherling. It’s a reference to the netherworld inhabitants who populate “Beetlejuice: The Musical,” the off-beat adaptation of the 1988 hit film that’s becoming an unlikely Broadway turnaround story. And that designation, which has been given to superfans of the show, goes a long way towards explaining how a [...]

  • Lena Waithe'The Inheritance' Broadway play opening,

    Lena Waithe, Anderson Cooper Attend Broadway Opening of 'The Inheritance'

    “The Inheritance” pulls viewers in many directions — toward pain and hope, trauma and healing. It’s what brought stars like Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Lena Waithe to Broadway on Sunday — a chance to heal, to remember and grieve. Also in attendance for the premiere at the Barrymore Theater [...]

  • Touching the Void review

    West End Review: 'Touching the Void'

    It shouldn’t work. Attempting to make effective theatre out of scaling a mountain, facing disaster thousands of feet up in the freezing cold and enduring a drawn-out facedown with death is surely a preposterous idea. Yet that is exactly what playwright David Grieg and director Tom Morris and his ideally meshed creative team have done. [...]

  • Hangmen review play

    Martin McDonagh’s 'Hangmen' Coming to Broadway in 2020

    Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen” will debut on Broadway this spring, the latest in a line of West End transfers to the Great White Way this year. The play, which focuses on the second-best executioner in Britain dealing with his government’s decision to abolish his favorite form of doing away with prisoners, will begin performances on Feb. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    Broadway Review: 'The Inheritance'

    The real hero of “The Inheritance,” Matthew Lopez’s thoughtful, moving and painfully funny play, is E.M. Forster, the celebrated English author of “Howards End,” “A Room with a View,” “A Passage to India,” and “Maurice,” that last a gay-themed novel published after his death in 1970. It’s quite the literary thrill to find the great [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content