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Playwright Jose Rivera is a man struck by the horrifying aspects of contemporary life and in desperate search for salvation from such moral devastation. The theme is a TV version of "Waiting for Godot" but with hope.

In his play "Marisol," now onstage at the New Phoenix Theatre courtesy of the Buffalo Ensemble Theatre, he posits a god whose senility has provoked a murderous psychopathology in mankind that has resulted in an apocalyptic revolution against him by the very angels of heaven.

The symptoms of this situation include street shootings and cuttings and other kinds of random violence and what I take to be general social chaos and political anarchy.

Marisol Perez, a young Latina who tries to assimilate herself into the larger Euro-American population, is a nice but completely withdrawn woman who lives like an animal in a roach-infested room in the Bronx where she hides herself from the mayhem.

An angel wants her to join the heavenly host in opposing the horrors and fight alongside it for mankind's return to love, decency and peace.

In the meantime, the girl is murdered or isn't, her friend's loony brother is stalking her, her dreams are visited by bloodcurdling visions. She isn't the same Marisol Perez who was beaned by a golf club in the hands of the lunatic brother, wait -- yes she is!! Wait -- no. No, she isn't.

This is an emotionally expressive drama and one that is excessive as well. It is confusing, with many issues and fears woven together in an attempt first, to present cause and effect, then to metaphorize and globalize them and show us our future.

The characters here might have tumbled right off a l2th century cathedral portal. There are so many of them, however, and they represent an environmental and social mess that is so beyond salvation, that the play is as chaotic as the situation it describes to us. It is dark, crazy and suffused with demonic possibility -- like a Lifetime movie or an endless loop of "Monte!."

Mr. Rivera's attempt is ethical, I am very sure. Like "Millennium," "The Profiler" and similar efforts, his play seeks to horrify, dissemble our sense of safety, make us see the worst of what's out there.

"Marisol," however, despite an effort to make us "see," lacks lucidity. The relationship among characters is uncertain. The need for some characters is uncertain. I found many moments funny and many weird, but I really wondered what (besides the obvious) was going on here.

The play is like the car wreck it describes. It's dark, menacing; everyone's screaming, people are terribly injured; the scene is gruesome, you can smell the blood, the gasoline, the flames; witnesses are beating the life out of the one who caused it -- and it never stops. Help never arrives. The accident spreads into mayhem and total ruin and we're left waiting for a promised salvation that may never come.


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