female energy and sultry rage take the stage at the Lab Theatre's
production of "Maids."
he Lab Theatre opens Jean Genet’s “The
Maids” with a mid-20th century amorality tale of class war
and female whimsy. Oh, and there’s also a murder plot.
Presented upon a lovingly spartan set bathed in pink light and bargain
lace, the scene never switches—nor does the shrill tension
of two maids playing out their fantasies in “madame’s”
wardrobe. The Lab’s theater department students tackle difficult
material in a valiant effort with some strong moments, but can’t
entirely overcome the tedious nature of the piece.
Presumably sisters, Solange (Laura Brackley) and Claire (Stacey
Allen) primp about in a haughty mockery of their boss. The sexual
tension comes early and uneasy. After all, the sisters I’ve
met rarely tout the other’s golden thighs.
They model the bridesmaid treasures of madame’s clothes rack
and take turns demeaning one another. Like good servants, they remain
ever-prepared to be surprised by their employer and remain wary
of intrusion. In this world, wary equals wild-eyed conviction.
These girls stare when emoting.
The themes of envy and unrequited passion come quickly. It plays
out between convoluted musings of blackmail and imprisoned lovers.
As they see it, those with the wealthy trappings become instantly
worthy of respect and desire. Almost as quickly the playwright’s
weak points begin nagging at you.
Jean Genet, a sincere tag-a-long of last century’s French
Existentialists, seems to view the rich with a treasonous respect.
Sure, the Stalin love shack had crumbled by the late ’40s,
but one could almost swear this should be a play sympathetic of
the worker’s plight. Unfortunately, what torments the workers
is the fact that they are absolutely bonkers.
The two subservient leads pluck at each other in a beleaguering
dialogue of “kiss me, don’t touch me.” One senses
a zealous attempt to titillate.
So, they’re sisters…right?
The lines sometimes play deftly with the language. Nicely poetic
musings along the lines on “frittering away my frenzy”
often catch the ear. The play’s director Larry Ness seems
to think the dialogue is best appreciated with a non-descript “I’m
a denizen of the Continent” accent. Fake French would be inexcusable,
but the unsure attempts at British enunciation try the nerves and
make the monologues a tad laborious.
Somewhat unsettling is the unveiling of the mythical “madame,”
played by Mindy Dillard. The object of envy and stewing neuroses
traipses onto the stage in a homage to a mid-’80s Cyndi Lauper.
Bedecked in bows and fishnets, she gnaws on a candy necklace while
out-bitching her imitators.
It’s clear that the murderous sisters both damn and desire
their boss. Somehow, they all end intellectually and morally equal.
We are not put on this earth to cheer for characters.
Brackley as Solange receives casting’s better hand due to
a selfassured poise and the plain fact that she looks the part.
Allen tears into the role of Claire with enthusiasm, but loses herself
in the accent and the temptation to play a beauty descending into
madness. Certainly a juicy role, but one made sensitive by the writer’s
Sex acts as the spinal column to this drama. We get glimpses of
lesbianism and everyone speaks of the “bad boy” boyfriend
with gushing admiration. Brackley convincingly quivers her way to
orgasm, as a prologue to a finale of monologues and psychotic stabs
at femininity. In the end, one can expect an honest effort with
some speculative material.