NAUGHTY BITS Mancini and Boghogian. [Photo by Richard W. Dionne, Jr.]
Taking place on the hot Louisiana Gulf Coast, Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo is steamy in more than one way, as human passions boil off repressed emotions.
Directed by Ed Shea, 2nd Story Theatre gives us an energetic staging (through May 26) powered by highly charged relationships but also quite humorous ones, as human folly often provides.
Hot-blooded Serafina Delle Rose (Rae Mancini) brags about having made love with her husband every night of their marriage. In the second scene, he dies driving his banana truck, smuggling contraband for the mob. A wee bit self-centered, Serafina is not upset that he was shot rather than simply killed in a crash. Her loss is the more important thing.
Three years pass and she is as passionate mourning him as she was with him. By this time, she's not leaving the house, not getting dressed, just scuffing about in her slip, a fate she wants her daughter to imitate. But 15-year-old Rosa (Valerie Westgate) has a different way of expressing the romantic temperament she shares with her mother.
At a dance she meets a young sailor named Jack (Andrew Iacovelli) with whom she can exercise it. Serafina, knowing she's beat unless she keeps Rosa under lock and key, has Jack kneel before her statue of the Virgin Mary and swear that he will "respect the innocence" of her daughter. He seems callow enough to mean it. (A handsome young sailor was an iconic fantasy figure for the gay playwright, so he had fun: Jack says that every time his thoughts turned carnal, he asks himself whether his mother would approve.) In a funny allusion to Romeo and Juliet, Jack says it's so late that the roosters are crowing, but Rosa responds, "They're fools, they're fools, it's early!"
Williams has this all take place in a Sicilian-American community, to maximize the emotional volatility and also the tsk-tsking discouragement of the neighborhood biddies.
If the symbol of a rose, which comes up a lot, weren't enough to keep love and passion in sight, the goat that belongs to the local witch (Liz Hallenbeck) keeps straying across her yard.
With a Gulfport billboard on our left, the turntable stage takes us from the porch outside to the arguments inside, which range from angry, through loving, to comical. When someone looks up and says she hears the stars, Serafina says that she hears termites. But mostly Serafina's concern is with what's going on inside her tormented self. "My heart doesn't say tick-tick, it says love-love," she declares.
Despite her self-imposed exile from flesh-and-blood romance, Serafina's attitude does a 180 when a handsome young truck driver, Alvaro (Ara Boghigian), shows up on her porch with, as she puts it, the head of a clown on the body of her husband. He is smitten. Eventually, to prove his fidelity, he gets a rose tattooed on his chest, like the one she swears blossomed on her left breast, then faded, the night her daughter was conceived.