In Madeleine George’s comedy with a message play, Hurricane Diane, it is the Greek Demi-God Dionysus (right here specializing in his realms of vegetation and ecstasy) who has all of the superpowers.
Returned to Earth disguised because the charming butch lesbian permaculture gardener Diane, he plans to avoid wasting the world from environmental break utilizing godly powers of seduction to recruit people to his trigger. Starting with 4 ladies in upscale suburban New Jersey.
Once they’ve turn into enraptured, Diane can insist the ladies, and finally, all of mankind, quit their beloved synthetic environments — neatly manicured lawns, purchasing malls, Panera Bread places — and embrace a sustainable, small-scale, pure surroundings.
But whereas Diane/Dionysus might have the authority of the Gods on this amusingly cute and lightweight on the preachiness one-act play, the true energy of Hurricane Diane (now on stage at Rec Room Arts) comes from this wonderful, firing on all cylinders, get your butt right down to see this present, manufacturing.
It’s virtually exhausting to know the place to begin when singing the praises of this present, however as all the time, every thing good (or not) in the end comes right down to route, so let’s begin there.
A previous Houston Press nominee for Best Direction (for her finely-tuned effort in, From White Plains), Lily Wolff as soon as once more reveals astute management, by no means permitting the absurdity of the premise to break down in on itself. Especially in the case of the therapy of Diane (Kasi Love), who spends many of the play speaking on to us as she hatches and makes an attempt to implement her plan.
Wisely, Wolff takes the deity down a notch in these fourth-wall-breaking moments, positioning Diane off and in entrance of the stage itself, making a extra intimate and comedy club-like surroundings. But Diane is a God in any case, so Wolff offers her a microphone to make use of periodically, nevertheless it’s for well specific sound emphasis with none whiff of supernatural triteness.
This is Love’s performing debut (she has spent 15-plus years working behind the stage) and it’s an assured and charismatic efficiency. Wolff might have guided Love to God-like standing, however now we’re curious to see the place else she would possibly step out of the shadows and again on the stage.
As for the suburban ladies, who spend the whole lot of the play of their similar subdivision glossy white marbled kitchens with French doorways overlooking backyards (Stefan Azizi as soon as once more doing wonders with the small however mighty Rec Room area) I dare you to call one other ensemble this season with extra chemistry and pure comedic fizz.
Here Wolff is aware of she has 4 exceptional skills, able to swinging between comedy and pathos with the precision of a paper lower. No have to over direct these actors, and Wolff accordingly employs a light-weight hand.
We first meet Carol (a splendidly clenched Jeanne Harris), an uptight, high-strung, appearances are every thing pharmaceutical compliance officer who hoards HGTV magazines within the hope that at some point she too could have the proper editorial-worthy yard. Not that she needs to go exterior and revel in it. She really by no means needs to go exterior.
While Carol’s husband appears willfully absent in her life, her neighbor Beth (Elizabeth Marshall Black oozing slouchy distress) is not too long ago single, deserted by her husband, and unable to get it collectively. Why simply have a look at her garden! It hasn’t been mowed in twelve weeks, by no means thoughts that she would possibly lose the home altogether as she has no marketable abilities to staunch her monetary bleeding.
Renee (Jasmine Renee Thomas oscillating splendidly between wistfulness and indignity) lauds herself because the highest-ranking Black editor of a design journal (Carol’s beloved HGTV journal) and but she’s additionally deeply dissatisfied with what she’s turn into. Holding again concepts round her risk-averse white colleagues out of worry of being seen as “angry”, wistful for a previous same-sex relationship, and itching to maneuver the needle ahead in her personal yard, Renee is able to get again to realness on each entrance.
Lastly, there’s Pam (Chelsea Ryan McCurdy giving us Jersey Shore fabulousness), an American Italian housewife super-woman. She might not have deity powers, however out of the 4 neighbors and pals, she’s the one which acquired all of them by way of the final storm together with her self-designed hurricane-proof basement and emergency provides. She’s loud, she’s succesful, she’s brash and she or he tells it like it’s, even when nobody in her household ever listens to or takes care of what she needs and wishes.
A fast tip of the hat should be paid to Costume Designer Harri Horsley for completely nailing the seems to be these ladies don. From Carol’s wise heels and black cigarette pants to Renee’s flowy delicate tunics to Beth’s mish-mash of no matter comfortable garments she’s picked up off the ground, the outfits are good. However, none extra so than the multitude of gloriously curve-hugging head-to-toe leopard ensembles Horsley items Pam. If leopard print might be a comedic actor, this will show it.
Back to the women, all of whom George has written with gaping holes of their lives, vulnerabilities to be exploited. Perfect for Diane to reap the benefits of whereas on rent to revamp their backyards. Yes, it is somewhat creepy, this seducing/bedding of lower than wholesome/joyful ladies, even whether it is for the surroundings’s sake. But then what Greek fable or God is not creepy to some extent? It’s simply the best way this style cookie crumbles.
How and why (or why not) Diane manages to lure the ladies over to the permaculture mind-set and as acolytes to assist globally unfold the environmental gossip works simply superb. George offers us some good enjoyable and meals for thought in these moments. “Why should I give up my creature comforts when comfort is all I have”, is the concept that cuts the deepest.
But actually, these scenes really feel secondary to the joys we get simply seeing the 4 ladies collectively laughing, speaking, sharing, and even arguing at instances.
Part of it’s the writing, George is aware of methods to pepper these scenes with energetic dialogue. But actually, it is due to Wolff and her solid that these moments are naturally humorous and never merely a knock-off model of a Desperate Housewives episode.
If you’re questioning if the hurricane within the title of the play is solely a metaphor, it’s not. There is a storm brewing on this play, one that can outline the efforts made by Diane and the alternatives the ladies make. And it’s right here that the ultimate reward lands.
We’re no strangers to depictions of storms in theaters, however Robert Meek (Sound Design) and Madeleine Reid (Lighting Design) actually wow us with their bombastic and prolonged results. Narratively, this isn’t your common storm and these two do it excellent justice. If solely their efforts weren’t barely watered down by one pointless and anticlimactic remaining scene.
To paraphrase Hamlet, usually it’s the play that’s the factor, and George’s work has advantage for certain. But it seems the true seduction on this Hurricane Diane is manufacturing, manufacturing, manufacturing. Go, snort, have enjoyable. And oh yeah, be higher to the earth.
Hurricane Diane continues by way of May 28 at Rec Room Arts, 100 Jackson. Visit recroomarts.org for tickets. $20-40.