In Madeleine George’s often hilarious, ultimately pointed comedy, the Greek god of agricultural and theater has decided to save the planet, after retreating for several centuries from the public life of a deity, most recently as a resident of Vermont “living off the grid with a bunch of lesbian separatists in consensus-based community.”
Diane (Becca Blackwell)needs acolytes to initiate a “new era of planetary healing.”
She starts small, setting out to seduce four housewives who are neighbors in a suburban cul-de-sac in Red Bank, New Jersey.
The seduction is literal, and sexual, but also satirical, and allegorical. One by one, Diane, a character that the stage directions describe as “a butch charm factory,” tries to win over each of the women, in the guise of a landscape gardener in heavy work boots and lumberjack shirt helping them redo their backyards.
To Carol (Mia Barron), Diane pitches a “lush primeval forest… teeming with beneficial insects, worms, beetles.” Carol just wants a lawn with “curb appeal” like the spreads in HGTV magazine. She turns out to be the most resistant of the four.
We eventually understand why, after several scenes of the four self-declared “girls” getting together to talk about the unpleasant storms that have been arriving with increasing frequency, and to confess the loneliness and superficiality in their lives.
“Why should I sacrifice even one of my comforts,” Carol says, “when my comforts are literally all that I have?”
George’s clever, timely update of The Bacchae by Euripides is given a boost by
Leigh Silverman’s vivid direction; fierce , attention-grabbing stage effects by the design team; and the spot-on performances by the five members of the cast.
Much of the humor comes from the juxtaposition of ancient myth with banal 21st century living – in costume (Diane occasionally sheds her butch outfit for divine white tunic) and especially in language.
But underneath the lively interaction is a sobering message. As Diane says to the women – and to us: “Deep down inside, you know your life is unsustainable.”
New York Theater Worksop
Written by Madeleine George.
Directed by Leigh Silverman
Set design by Rachel Hauck, costume design by Kaye Voyce, lighting design by Barbara Samuels, sound design by Bray Poor, choreography by Raja Feather Kelly
Cast: Mia Barron, Michelle Beck, Becca Blackwell, Danielle Skraastad and Kate Wetherhead
Running time: 95 minutes no intermission
Hurricane Diane is scheduled to run through March 24, 2019