2nd Story’s The Rose Tattoo Awakens the Spirit

All around us, life is happening. Flowers are blooming, trees are green once again, the animal kingdom is rousing from a long, cold slumber. Come to find out, there’s no better play to celebrate the start of spring than The Rose Tattoo, Tennessee Williams’s scarcely produced Tony Award-winning production.

This 1951 folktale — staged at 2nd Story in a quaint rotating cottage — centers on Serafina delle Rose, an Italian widow living on the Gulf Coast. To her chagrin, Serafina is desperately in need of an awakening. We’re right there when Serefina learns that her beloved husband, Rosario, has been killed in a trucking accident. Before his death, Rosario was involved in some sketchy shipping business, but Serafina worships him nonetheless. She knows the glory of love and, though her husband is no longer alive, it’s still burning within her.

Her fire for her late husband — who we learn wasn’t exactly the model partner — makes it easy for Serafina to withdraw from the world she still lives in. She barely puts on a dress anymore, is rude to customers who keep her sewing business afloat, and can’t make it out of the house for her fifteen-year-old daughter Rosa’s graduation.

Rae Mancini’s portrayal of this headstrong Sicilian is the stage success of the season. Mancini is, in one scene, radiant with love and pregnant with a boy; then she plummets down to a coarse, uncombed spinster who’s swallowed by her misery and hostile to her neighbors; then she skyrockets back up to a stunning woman with a flower in her hair, burning with rediscovered passion. Her versatility is a complete surprise, and Mancini enraptures the audience with a sort of in-your-face performance that’s impossible to overlook. She jumps headfirst into the ugliness of her character, yet effortlessly sheds it for the springtime of her life, when it’s okay to be beautiful again.

Actress Valerie Westgate also gives a stellar performance as Serafina’s teenage daughter, Rosa. She whines and kicks as teenagers do when they don’t get their way and, living for three years in mourning with her mother, Rosa doesn’t often get what she wants. But after she meets a young sailor at a school dance, played by a charming Andrew Iacovelli, Rosa becomes another teenaged stereotype: A girl who’s enraptured by first love. The private scenes between Westgate and Iacovelli are such a sweet foil for Serafina’s sour outlook on life and remind us of how pure and simple love can be, a lesson Serafina thankfully learns in time — with a little help, of course.

The Rose Tattoo is onstage through May 26. Tickets are $20­–$25, and may be purchased by calling the box office at 247-4200 or visiting 2ndstorytheatre.com.