THEATER REVIEW: “The Rose Tattoo” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]
Theater review by Macey Levin
Tennessee Williams is one of our country’s most important playwrights having written masterpieces from the mid-1940’s to the early ‘60’s including The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and many other dark, brooding dramas. In 1951 he wrote a very different work, The Rose Tattoo that is as intense as the others but also hugely funny. Williamstown Theatre Festival has mounted an outstanding production of this seldom-performed play with the marvelous Marisa Tomei leading an exceptional cast.
Serafina Delle Rose (Ms. Tomei) and her 15-year-old daughter live in a ramshackle house in a Gulf coast town in Louisiana. She was widowed three years ago when her husband Rosario was killed in a truck accident while smuggling drugs. She worshipped him and boasts about the rose tattoo on his chest and their love-making to her female neighbors, most of whom neither like nor respect her. She is an object of derision throughout her neighborhood, and they are aware that Rosario was not faithful to her, though they never use that against her. A devout Catholic immigrant from Sicily, she keeps a statue of the Virgin Mary with a candle lit 24 hours a day and speaks to it. She tells her only friend, Assunta (Barbara Rosenblat,) that the statue speaks to her.
Serafina’s daughter Rosa (Gus Birney) has fallen in love with Jack (Will Pullen), a girl friend’s brother. Serafina is fervently opposed to Rosa having any relationship with a boy/man at her young age, though she was married when she was 14. She has kept Rosa locked in a room preventing her from going to school and her graduation ceremony since she has discovered that Rosa has been seeing Jack. At the urging of Assunta and Rosa’s teacher she allows her to attend the ceremony.