by Jose Rivera
The plot of Marisol centers around Marisol Perez, a young book editor in Manhattan. One night Marisol is visited by her guardian angel, who tells her that the angels are at war with God and that Marisol must now live without the angel’s protection. Over the course of the play, the angel's war causes heaven to crash into the earth, bringing about the apocalypse and the destruction of the world. The play deals with themes that include Catholic guilt, mental illness, and grief.
I drew my main inspiration for the atmosphere of the set from the Hans Memling’s 1471 painting Last Judgment. I was drawn to the idea of the elevation of the divine above the mortal world that this painting evokes.
The action of the show takes place mostly in four locations: Marisol's apartment, her best friend June’s apartment, Marisol's office, and the streets of New York City.
The set is a collage of New York fire escapes and gothic columns, all seemingly floating in limbo between heaven and earth. A stage-left platform serves as both Marisol’s and June’s apartments. The farthest upstage fire escape serves as the permanent home for Marisol’s guardian angel, who remains on stage, watching the action below, for most of the play. Behind these elements, a brick-wall backdrop appears to be shattering. Graffiti and images from Memling’s Last Judgment decorate this wall, creating a grungy, yet spiritual backdrop.
The challenge was to create a set that was simultaneously interior and exterior, because the first act takes place in different interior locations and the entire second act of the show takes place outside on the streets of New York. (The space does not allow for changes of scenery.) One element of my solution was to make the stage-right fire escape platform also serve as Marisol’s high-rise office in the first act, and as a building exterior in the second act.