"Kiss of the Spider Woman" is the title of novel written in 1976 by Manuel Puig
. The story is set in a Latin American prison
and revolves around the developing relationship, told through a constant, unmarked dialogue
, between two men: Valentin, a political revolutionary
and Molina, a gay window dresser who escapes from the harsh reality
of prison by placing himself into movies that he relives in his imagination. Throughout the novel the relationship between these two unlikely friends gradually devleops from mutual disdain
to a shady and somewhat reluctant love affair
. Ironically, in the end, Molina dies as a result of a political murder
while Valentin adopts Molina's philosophy
to deal with the absence of his companion.
A film version was made in 1986 starring Raul Julia and William Hurt. Sticking closely to the novel, the movie made good use of Molina's film fantasies to develop the attraction between the two men. The film was successful and inspired John Kander and Fred Ebb to musicalize the story.
The first workshop production of the musical was done in 1990 at SUNY in Purchase, NY and quickly encountered problems. The unconventional narrative style of the novel proved to be difficult to re-interpret for the musical stage and changes had to be made. For instance, the original novel did not have a specific Spider Woman character; rather, Valentín suggests that Molina himself is a seductive Spider Woman "who traps men in her web." It is, in that regard, somewhat strange that this metaphor only used twice in the novel would become the story's title. I think I've figured out why: Manuel Puig, the late author of the original novel, used as Molina's first movie Cat People, about a woman who cannot get herself into any sexual situation lest she turn into a panther and kill anyone around her. A friend of mine was in Spain recently and found that the title, in Spanish, was El Beso de la Mujer Pantera- Kiss of the Panther Woman. So, the novel's original title, El Beso de la Mujer Araña, would be evocative of the earlier film, and explain the titular character when she is nothing more than a passing reference in the book: love from Molina is as destructive as love from a Panther Woman, but just as powerful. Irena, the heroine of Cat People, undergoes a remarkable change when she falls in love, as does Molina. Irena's metamorphosis is dangerous and lethal, however, while Molina's growth makes him into a stronger, independent person willing to die for his emotions. Another small problem encountered revolved around the organization of the musical numbers- the musicalization of too many of Molina's dream sequences led to a convoluted story line. These factors prevented the musical from reaching Broadway as was anticipated and the development continued.
In 1993, after playing both London and Toronto, a completely revamped version reached Broadway. Much of the score had been rewritten and three new leads were cast: Chita Rivera was cast as The Spider Woman, Brent Carver as Molina, and Anthony Crivello played Valentin. The show went on to win a number of Tony Awards, but didn't catch on with audiences due to its unconventional subject matter.
This has been another nodeshell rescue.