Q & A with Michael Michetti
By A Noise Within
February 23, 2023
Welcome back to A Noise Within, Michael. At ANW, you have directed Frankenstein, A Picture of Dorian Gray, The Comedy of Errors, Hamlet etc. What was it about Kiss of the Spider Woman that attracted you to the story?
When Geoff and Julia asked me if I was interested in directing it, I knew the basic story already from the film and the Broadway musical, and I knew it was based on a novel by Manuel Puig, but I’d never read the novel or the play. Well, I just fell in love with it. As a novelist, Puig was interested in revealing characters through their distinctive voices and through language. I’d say about 90% of the novel is dialogue between the two characters, and there is no third-person, omniscient narration at all. So, the reader has to glean from the dialogue who these two people are, where they come from, what they want… It’s so theatrical! And while the basic story of the novel and the play is fairly simple, the drama comes through the nuance of the characters’ interactions. Puig said in an interview, “What I like to do in my novels is to show the complexity of everyday life; the sub texture of social tensions and the pressures behind each little act of ours.” Well, he has done that in this play as well. Like life, it’s complicated and unsettling and beautiful. And I find it thrilling.
As a prolific director, there isn’t much under the sun you have not seen, but every production presents new challenges. What new challenges did this production present?
A big part of the story of Kiss of the Spider Woman is Molina retelling the plots of classic films from the 1940s as a way to escape the hardships of their prison life. In the film and the musical, there are sequences that take us away from the confines of their cell to depict scenes from these films. Well, in the play it’s just the two people locked in their cell, and there’s no escape. But in reading the play I realized that it’s part of what makes this so perfect for A Noise Within, a classical theatre company. One of the hallmarks of classical theatre is the reliance of language, and that’s certainly true of Kiss of the Spider Woman. Like Molina and Valentin, we, the audience, are trapped in that cell with them, and the only escape we have is the ability to use our imaginations to expand our reality and free ourselves from the confines of their prison.
In 2023, what can we learn from a story that was written almost 50 years ago?
We have made tremendous strides in the past 50 years in terms of civil rights and our understanding and acceptance of such things as sexual and gender roles and identities. But everything is cyclical, right? While “the arc of the moral universe” has moved us forward, we’re currently experiencing a backlash to the social progress we’ve been making in our country. Certainly, we don’t experience the degree of violence, civil rights abuses, silencing of dissenting voices, and totalitarian control that they saw in Argentina in the 1970s. But our rights are being stripped from us and our freedoms are being challenged. The parallels are unmistakable, and I think we can always learn from a cautionary tale that reminds us to stay vigilant.
Of all the themes of Kiss of the Spider Woman (escapism, identity, trust), which do you find to be most relevant for us today?
There are so many rich themes in the play, but I think the one that I find most moving in this moment is about connection. About listening, empathy, and respect. Our world now is so polarized that it’s almost impossible to even have a conversation with someone who has a different point of view. That’s also true of Valentin and Molina, who begin the play with virtually nothing in common. Being trapped in a cell together, they either need to find common ground or else stay stuck in a miserable, intolerable situation. But from this arid, unfertile soil, something can grow. Two strangers from different worlds, with different values and beliefs and experiences are able to come to understand one another, learn from each other, and even grow to love one another. The play doesn’t pretend that it’s easy, but it’s a wonderful reminder that it’s possible.
Without giving spoilers, what are you most excited to share with our audience?
I’m just excited for audiences to be exposed to the work of this brilliant Latin American writer. And then to witness the collaboration between our extraordinary actors and fantastic design team, who are all bringing so much talent and heart to this project. When you have such amazing material and such a wonderful group of artists bringing it to life, it’s a rare joy. And I think that will be apparent to those who come to experience it.
Learn more about Kiss of the Spider Woman.